Democracy advocates around the world are cheering Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's victory in last weekend's Brazilian elections --and Jair Bolsonaro's failure to make any challenge to those results stick. We live in a political era when far-right candidates seek to discredit elections to prepare the population for their eventual refusal to concede defeat. Donald Trump's attempts to destroy electoral and other institutions after his November 2020 loss are a spectacular example.
Bolsonaro had not only run on the Trump playbook, threatening political violence if he lost and waging a disinformation campaign designed to lower confidence in the Brazilian election system, but he also lost by a very narrow margin (he got 49.1 of the vote to Lula's 50.9).
Yet the Bolsonaro insurrection never happened. While his supporters waited for him to make good on his June promise that "if necessary, we will go to war,” he remained silent for almost 48 hours, "sulking in the dark," as The Nation put it. True to the strongman style, Bolsonaro could not bring himself to openly concede defeat to his opponent, but he did authorize the start of the transfer of presidential powers to Lula during his 5-minute speech.