Since August 16th, Brazil has mostly been dominated by a single issue: the electoral campaign. Although most of the world’s attention is on the presidential run, this Sunday, Brazilians will also vote for governors, senators, and members of Congress and 27 State Assemblies. There are 1,626 positions in dispute, and the results will be critical in defining the roadmap to building a more inclusive Brazilian society in the years to come.
At Luminate, we are closely monitoring these events. In June, we launched our new organizational strategy, which reinforces our commitment to Latin America, and Brazil. Our work now focuses on ensuring that everyone - particularly those who are underrepresented – has the information, rights, and power to influence the decisions that affect us all.
In Brazil, it means we are working alongside women, LGBTQIA+ communities, Black and Indigenous people, and youth to ensure they can fully participate in civic and political life. We also work to ensure independent journalists and activists can operate safely and can hold those in power to account. And to promote a healthy public debate.
There are two major issues we’re paying attention to during the Brazilian election:
Diverse, but… to what extent?
These elections have the highest percentage of women running for office in Brazil’s history, representing 33% of all candidacies – a symbolic victory to mark the 90th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the country. Although good news, that doesn't come close to eliminating the gender gap in Brazilian politics. Women are 52% of the country’s population and currently make up 15% of the Congress and 17% of the Senate. Out of 27 governors, only three identify as women.
There is also a record number of LGBTQIA+ candidates, with more than 200 registered, 75 of which are trans. At the same time, the rights of these populations have not been prioritized by any of the presidential candidates. A study carried out by our partner All Out shows that only five out of 12 of the presidential policy platforms mention plans for LGBTQIA+ communities, and none of them does it in detail.
The current elections also have the highest percentage of self-declared Afro-descendant candidates, with 49,8% of people running for office identifying as Black or brown.
This increase in participation is the result of a confluence of factors, including a recent legal decision that redirects resources to political parties for the purpose of strengthening women’s and Black people’s representation, and, most importantly, years of activism led by groups like our partners from Peregum.
While there are reasons to celebrate and have hope that these candidacies could be transformative to their communities and Brazil at large, it is important to address some key challenges that could preclude their participation in formal politics. There are reports of established, white, and rich politicians taking advantage of the legal decision by self-declaring as brown or Black.
Peregum and other civil society organizations have also raised the alarm that underrepresented groups in Brazil face significant obstacles to accessing power, such as a lack of resources and support within their political parties, and violence and discrimination during the campaign period and once they gain office.
A public debate shadowed by fear and disinformation
There is a worrisome and loud message being targeted to underrepresented groups: “Do not get involved!”
According to MonitorA 2022, a special project that analyzed 175 female candidates' Twitter accounts, women experienced consistent online violence, with 95 of those studied attacked on the platform in the first week of the electoral campaign. Among the main aggressions they experienced were claims and allusions that the candidates are mad, hysterical, or suffer from mental illness. The level of violence against-gender diverse people is so high that trans candidates have reported death threats and wearing bulletproof vests during the campaign.
Political violence creates an ongoing cycle of exclusion of underrepresented groups, as it discourages engagement. It also has real consequences, such as illness and increased expenses to ensure safety. Every institution committed to democracy in Brazil should treat political violence as a top priority. This includes decision makers and political leaders, as well as the private sector. In particular, Big Tech platforms, who have frequently been shown to be
Violence is not limited to women and gender-diverse people who run for office; it extends to those who write about it. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which is monitoring social networks during the election, found that in the first month of the electoral campaign, there were 2.8 million online attacks against journalists. They tracked the 10 most targeted journalists and found that 88% of the content was directed at the female journalists in this group. Most of these attacks were misogynistic in nature.
The difficulty with implementing measures to combat hate speech and online violence also extends to the fight against mis- and disinformation. There is strong awareness among the public that it is important for Big Tech companies to do more to combat this issue, as the majority of Brazilians (60%) believe that fake news will influence the results of the elections. However, while the Electoral Supreme Court required Big Tech platforms to ensure safeguards to protect electoral integrity, the actions have proven to be ineffective and insufficient. Specialists point out that the terms of the agreements are vague and not enforceable.
On the other hand, while there is a growing feeling of uncertainty in the country due to increased false messaging by candidates that the elections shouldn’t be trusted, the good news is that nearly 80% of Brazilians believe in its integrity.
Brazilian elections matter for the Brazilian people, for Latin Americans, and for the whole world. Whatever happens in the country could set precedents for the efforts to build more inclusive societies. We hope for a peaceful process, where electoral integrity is upheld and more underrepresented people are able to participate in and access the halls of power.
In Brazil, social movements have a saying: “only the fight changes our lives” ("só a luta muda a vida"). At Luminate, we will keep working to support their fight for a more truly inclusive democracy.
And you? What are you watching in the Brazilian elections?