Brazilians are losing faith in democracy and considering a return to military rule

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Media Outlet: Vox

Chayenne Polimedio broke down a study showing that fewer Brazilians support on Vox's Polyarchy, explaining why that is happening and why it's a problem.

Brazil’s battle against corruption shows that a system of checks and balances is no guarantee of support for democracy. It shows that when people are unhappy with their governments, they’re not necessarily more appreciative of democracy and the fact that they can just vote politicians out of office. In fact, much like in the US and in democracies across Western Europe — as Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa’s work on democratic deconsolidation shows — a decline in trust in political institutions is making people more open to authoritarian alternatives such as military rule.
In 2016, Brazilians’ support for democracy fell by 22 percent. Not only has support gone down to 32 percent (from 54 percent in 2015), but 55 percent of Brazilians say they wouldn’t mind a nondemocratic government as long as it “solved problems.”
Brazil’s military regime, in place from 1964 to 1985, was the result of a coup that brought down the then-democratically elected President João Goulart. The country went through two decades marked by violence, torture, exile, censorship, and, of course, corruption. Brazilians still search for loved ones who went missing after they criticized the military government, never to be seen again.
But memories of oppression are beginning to fade: A new nostalgia for military dictatorship is everywhere, propelled by a chaotic economy, high levels of inequality and crime, and a corrupt political system.
It’s easy to meet Brazilians — old and young — who believe no politician is free from corruption, and that the only way to “fix the system” is by starting anew with a complete military overhaul of the government. Here’s why, and why that’s worrisome:

Author:

Chayenne Polimédio is a research associate in the Political Reform program at New America. She writes about American democracy and issues of representation, participation, and polarization, as well as about Brazilian politics and identity.