Tremors from the political earthquake that shook the United Kingdom have reached Brazil, where the left is hoping the demise of a British populist leader presages the downfall of their own far-right authoritarian.
Boris Johnson’s political collapse was met with a mixture of hope and humour, with Ciro Gomes, one of the presidential candidates in October’s Brazilian election, describing the leaders of both nations in similar terms.
“Crisis creator, inveterate fabulist, lapsed Trumpista, (repentant) initial [Covid] denier, sexual aggressor’s accomplice, the head of government has fallen!” Gomes wrote on Twitter. “Bolsonaro? No, Boris Johnson! Better late than never. The one (we have) here will depart shortly.”
Jair Bolsonaro is up for re-election in October and everything points to a defeat for the far-right leader many people compare to Johnson, with the disparaging name Bozo used for both populist leaders.
A poll released on Wednesday by Quaest showed Bolsonaro trailing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by 14 percentage points, 45 to 31. A Thursday poll by PoderData gave Lula a lead of 44 to 36. Gomes is in third place in both.
They are the latest in a series that give Lula significant leads, although whether he can beat Bolsonaro in the first ballot on 2 October and avoid a run-off is still unclear.
Lula served as president between 2003 and 2011 and is running again after a series of criminal convictions were quashed when a court ruled judges colluded with prosecutors. He was released from prison in 2019 after spending more than a year behind bars.
Lula, though, remains a polarising figure and in another example of the country’s febrile political atmosphere, his campaign rally in Rio de Janeiro was hit with a homemade explosive device on Thursday night.
No one was hurt but a man was arrested after throwing the crude device into the crowd. Lula later appeared on stage as scheduled, wearing a bullet-proof vest under his clothes, according to the UOL website.
He made no comment about Boris Johnson’s resignation but political analysts, in both hope and judgment, see parallels between his resurgence and the weakening of the far-right in the region.
Peru elected a leftist president last year and Chile and Colombia followed suit in 2022, isolating Bolsonaro politically. The defeat of Donald Trump was another setback, robbing him of an ally he once said he loved.
“The fewer populists elected in the world the more isolated Bolsonaro becomes,” said Pedro Doria, editor of Meio, a political newsletter. “There is a sense here among voters that the far-right movement is coming apart.”
“The wave of populist nationalists is ebbing and Boris Johnson being ousted is another indication of that. But I think it would have been clearer if he had been beaten at the ballot box, not removed by his own party.”
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