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Politician: Attacking electronic voting machines is the rhetoric of an authoritarian populist - 01/03/2022 - Poder

Politician: Attacking electronic voting machines is the rhetoric of an authoritarian populist – 01/03/2022 – Poder

When Brazil won its first electoral law, in 1932, fraud was common in the country, and fighting it became a central argument for creating the new system.

90 years later, there are no signs of old scams, but President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) is raising the specter of fraud to attack electronic voting machines.

According to political scientist Paolo Ricci, a professor at the University of the South Pacific, Bolsonaro’s goal is not the ballot box itself, but the entire electoral process.

“This is a typical discursive rhetoric of an authoritarian populist leader who seeks to exclude not his opponents, but the system as a whole,” Ritchie says. “[Com isso]The essence of how democracy works is called into question. No fair elections and no outside interference.”

Ritchie curated Electoral Authoritarianism in the 1930s and Election Law, in which a collection of articles explores the various changes that occurred nearly a century ago, including the inauguration of electoral justice.

According to Ricci, two politicians of the time can be remembered to help understand Bolsonaro’s attack on the electoral system: Getulio Vargas (1882-1954) and Benito Mussolini (1883-1945).

The former ruled the country for nearly 20 years and in a coup d’état in 1937, he established the Estado Novo dictatorship. The second led Italy for just over 20 years and established fascism in the country.

In the book “Electoral tyranny in the 1930s and the electoral law”, A. He suggests reviewing the classic interpretation under which electoral justice was established to reduce electoral fraud. because? The history of political institutions teaches us that changes to the rules must be thought of with regard to the interests of those who propose them, as well as the manner in which they are implemented.

In the first case, we have to try to unravel the logic of the change. This means answering the following question: What do stakeholders gain and lose from reform?

In the second, it is about analyzing how the reform has been implemented in practice. After all, who said that in 1932 electoral justice operates independently?

So, the idea was to save history, go back in time, and think about how actors in electoral justice itself, as well as politicians and parties, acted and moved.

And what did the parties concerned gain and lose by establishing electoral justice? Practically, politicians have lost control of the electoral bureaucracy, i.e., some stages of the electoral process, from the organization of elections, the determination of polling stations, the formation of polling stations, etc., to the counting of votes. Previously, everything was in the hands of politicians.

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But they continue to exert a powerful influence at one point: electoral recruitment. Whoever elects the electors is the candidate with the help of his brothers in religion.

And what about scams? Mr. Do you agree that they were a big problem before the establishment of electoral justice? It depends. If we think about how democracy should work, the answer is yes. We know that fraud in democracies is an element that upsets the representative balance. But in my opinion, this way of thinking about fraud has ended up distorting the focus of scholars.

What I’m saying is that democracy was not on the agenda during the first republic. That is, to understand the logic of political discord at the time, we have to understand how political elites vie for power. Ruling and opposition elites used fraud as a mechanism to compete for representative positions.

In this logic, fraud is no longer a problem and becomes a topic of research. This is much more interesting and motivating than sitting here mumbling about the fraudulent past of that election.

Looking at fraud as a research topic, was Brazil in 1932 behind or ahead of the major countries at the time? Fraud is not characteristic of Brazil. It was widely practiced in other countries. The electoral law of 1932 is inspired by Argentine and Uruguayan legislation, countries that have already adopted measures intended to protect voters or establish rules for non-interference of politicians during the electoral process.

European countries also moved towards reforms aimed at creating guarantees of voting. In other words, there are some countries in the lead, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, but, in terms of comparison, 1932 is not innovative, reflecting an already observed trend towards the introduction of standards and measures that limit interference in the electoral process.

Mr. The book states that in 1932, the federal government adopted an anti-fraud rhetoric to support the establishment of electoral justice, although the letter did not go into effect immediately. Today we have the opposite: the president invokes the specter of fraud, even though he shows no evidence of it. How do we explain this situation? This is a typical discursive rhetoric of an authoritarian populist leader aimed at excluding not his opponents, but the system as a whole.

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Clarification is needed here. Not all populists work against electoral rules and the rules of democracy in general. Many populists in Europe play by the rules of democracy and do not question them. They propose electoral reforms, but accept changes that provide mixed advantages, that is, in favor of other political forces.

Authoritarianism goes beyond that. By pointing the finger at the electoral system as a whole, even if it deals specifically with electronic voting machines, the essence of how democracy works is called into question. No fair elections and no outside interference.

Why do you say attacking electronic voting machines calls into question the very essence of how democracy works? Well, this issue is not an attack on the polls themselves. Each electoral mechanism is subject to criticism and can be modified if not improved. In fact, there have been projects in Congress on this topic for years, long before Bolsonaro.

The problem is in the way it is done. Without convincing evidence and substantiation, a mechanism that has so far shown no signs of allowing the “electoral truth” to be violated is ineligible to restore an expression from the 1930s.

The goal is not the ballot box, but rather the exclusion of the electoral process.

Given a historical perspective, what is the comparison to Bolsonaro’s attempt to rule out the electoral process? First, I would like to go back to the time of the election law. [Getúlio] Vargas and the revolutionaries of 1930 dismissed the representative system of the First Republic, calling it a falsifier and a falsifier of electoral truth.

Building a narrative against the electoral process was crucial to positioning the electoral law as a symbol of great change.

Rather, it is interesting that this narrative has been preserved until today, i.e. referring the electoral experience of the First Republic to a mere triumph of political interference over the electoral process.

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But it might be interesting to think of the Italian case. In 1919, Italy introduced a system [eleição] proportional. This system favors the entry of multiple parties and fragmentation in parliament.

Mussolini, who was already prime minister in 1922, pursued a reform of this system, searching for an alternative capable of forming a government that was “unbound by previous commitments, free from insurmountable taboos, not stifled by divisions, and not tainted by naive differences in its origins. “Trends and Currents”.

Herein lies the idea of ​​a leader who can rule without other political forces, without concessions that would only stifle the work of the government.

to From the point of view of moralizing the electoral process and preventing fraud, how does this year’s elections compare to those of nearly a century ago, especially thinking about fake news and rules that have been circumvented on the Internet? If this shows an urgent need to think about new standards for responding to Internet challenges (speaking in general), it also shows that fraud is a concept in motion, i.e. it must be constantly thought about and reviewed with the only person. The purpose of defending electoral practices that protect the freedom of expression of individuals.

Mr. Do you think there is any risk from this point of view today, even if it is not in the form of vote rigging? Bribery, vote selling and electoral intimidation will always be present. The question is to what extent these aspects affect electoral dynamics. It seems to me that the problem in Brazil is not with the relationship with the electorate, but with the way candidates and parties gather resources to compete.

This is the thorny issue of financing. If you really want to improve our electoral democracy, this is where you have to step in.

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Paolo Ricci, 49. Graduated from the University of Bologna (Italy), MA and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of the South Pacific, and is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of the South Pacific. He organized my books Electoral Authoritarianism in the 1930s and the Electoral Law of 1932 (Abris, 2019) and Elections in the First Republic (Supreme Electoral Tribunal, 2021).