Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is going down the Trump "stolen election"route as he faces a vote later this year, but unlike Trump, it looks like Bolsonaro may actually get his military coup plan should he lose.
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has for months consistently trailed in the polls ahead of the country’s crucial presidential race. And for months, he has consistently questioned its voting systems, warning that if he loses October’s election, it will most likely be thanks to a stolen vote.
Those claims were largely regarded as talk. But now, Mr. Bolsonaro has enlisted a new ally in his fight against the electoral process: the nation’s military.
The leaders of Brazil’s armed forces have suddenly begun raising similar doubts about the integrity of the elections, despite little evidence of past fraud, ratcheting up already high tensions over the stability of Latin America’s largest democracy and rattling a nation that suffered under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
Military leaders have identified for election officials what they say are a number of vulnerabilities in the voting systems. They were given a spot on a transparency committee that election officials created to ease fears that Mr. Bolsonaro had stirred up about the vote. And Mr. Bolsonaro, a former army captain who filled his cabinet with generals, has suggested that on Election Day, the military should conduct its own parallel count.
Mr. Bolsonaro, who has spoken fondly about the dictatorship, has also sought to make clear that the military answers to him.
Election officials “invited the armed forces to participate in the electoral process,” Mr. Bolsonaro said recently, referring to the transparency committee. “Did they forget that the supreme chief of the armed forces is named Jair Messias Bolsonaro?”
Almir Garnier Santos, the commander of the Brazilian Navy, told reporters last month that he backed Mr. Bolsonaro’s view. “The president of the republic is my boss, he is my commander, he has the right to say whatever he wants,” Mr. Garnier Santos said.
With just over four months until one of the most consequential votes in Latin America in years, a high-stakes clash is forming. On one side, the president, some military leaders and many right-wing voters argue that the election is open to fraud. On the other, politicians, judges, foreign diplomats and journalists are ringing the alarm that Mr. Bolsonaro is setting the stage for an attempted coup.
Mr. Bolsonaro has added to the tension, saying that his concerns about the election’s integrity may lead him to dispute the outcome. “A new class of thieves has emerged who want to steal our freedom,” he said in a speech this month. “If necessary, we will go to war.”
Unlike America, Brazil has been under a military dictatorship before for a couple of decades, and seems to be heading right back for another round.
Republicans are absolutely paying attention here.