Jair and Flavio Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (R) speaks to the press after learning the results of the legislative and presidential election next to his son Flavio Bolsonaro (L) in Brasilia, on October 2, 2022. (Photo: Evaristo Sa/AFP via Getty Images)

Warnings of Right-Wing Violence Mount as Bolsonaro's Son Claims 'Biggest Electoral Fraud Ever'

One expert said that former U.S. President Donald Trump is Bolsonaro's "idol and his model" as the Brazilian leader and his allies launch baseless attacks on the electoral system.

Political experts in Brazil are warning that President Jair Bolsonaro and his allies may be using a "roadmap" provided by former U.S. President Donald Trump to call the results of the country's upcoming election into question before the votes are even cast.

Deploying almost the exact same language used by Trump following his loss of the 2020 presidential election, Sen. Flavio Bolsonaro, the right-wing president's son, said Wednesday on social media that his father is "the victim of the biggest electoral fraud ever seen," adding that there have been attempts "to manipulate the result" of the runoff election scheduled to take place Sunday.

The Bolsonaro campaign has taken aim at radio stations in northeastern Brazil, saying the political advertisements they've aired in the runup to the election have heavily favored former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula, who won the first round of the election earlier this month.

Earlier this week, Bolsonaro's communications minister, Fabio Faria, claimed without evidence that more than 154,000 ads for the president had not been broadcast after being submitted to radio companies this month. Faria accused the media of "a grave violation of the electoral system."

As The Guardian reported, Chief Electoral Justice Alexandre de Moraes rejected the Bolsonaro campaign's request that the radio stations be investigated and "called instead for an investigation into whether the 'unsubstantiated' claims were designed to 'disrupt' the election."

Political expert Thomas Traumann told The Guardian that the campaign's conduct in the days before Brazilians go to the polls strongly suggests that Bolsonaro is "going to contest" the election results.

"I have zero doubt--zero," Traumann told the newspaper. "The question is the scale of the violence that challenge causes."

After the U.S. election in November 2020, Trump baselessly claimed that "the greatest fraud in the history of our country from an electoral standpoint" had been perpetrated, even as dozens of lawsuits filed by his campaign and allies failed to prove that "voter fraud" or voting machine irregularities had falsely handed a victory to President Joe Biden.

A congressional committee has presented extensive evidence this year that Trump was heavily involved in efforts to overturn the election, which culminated in a violent failed attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results on January 6, 2021.

"Trump is his idol and his model," Traumann told The Guardian. "And what did Trump do? He contested, he didn't accept defeat, he called people on to the streets and encouraged violent protests and left power without backing down and continued to engage his followers so they didn't recognize the authority of the new government and thus kept his base fired up."

"This, for me, is Bolsonaro's roadmap," he added.

Bolsonaro received more votes than polling had predicted in the first-round election on October 2, but Lula led with 48.4%--just shy of the majority needed to win outright. A survey released Thursday by polling firm Datafolha showed Lula had the support of 53% of voters compared to Bolsonaro's 47%.

David Adler, general coordinator for global grassroots organization Progressive International, warned that the Bolsonaro campaign may take inspiration from another tactic that Trump used in 2020--and which experts now fear Republicans may use again in the U.S. midterm elections on November 8.

With more Democrats than Republicans casting mail-in ballots in 2020 and this year, experts say a so-called "red mirage" could make it seem as though Republicans are farther ahead than they actually are until mail-in ballots are counted--after which Democrats could make significant gains.

Trump denounced the phenomenon as a suspicious "dump" of Democratic votes in 2020, and Adler said the Bolsonaro campaign could do the same as models are predicting Lula "will only take the lead when 88.5% of votes have been counted."

"Be careful: Bolsonaristas will be crying victory all the way until this switch--and then fraud all the way after," said Adler.

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