Sergiu Miscoiu on the coup attempt in Brazil: Technopopulism’s rise causes the extreme right’s answer

An interview about the loss of middle ground and neutrality in the national democratic institutions around the world

A talk with the Romanian political scientist from the University of Babeș-Bolyai about the attack of Bolsonaro supporters over the parliament in Brazil: what follows in Brazilian politics, what changes do the rise of extreme right cause for politics around the world, what is the role of technopopulism for these evolutions and who are Brazilian president Lula’s supporters in the world today. His conclusion: the middle ground and neutrality are being lost, institutions become politicized and politics is polarized.

What follows after the attack of Bolsonaro’s supporters in Brazil?

Welcome to an extraordinary edition of Cross-border talks, where we will reflect on the attack on the Brazilian parliament by supporters of Bolsonaro, the candidate who lost the recent election, presidential elections and who is now in Florida. We are going to discuss this with the Romanian political scientist from the University of Babeș-Bolyai in Cluj-Napca Sergiu Mișcoiu. What do you expect to follow after this attack and what will be the future balance between the forces of the President and those of Bolsonaro?

Hello and thank you for having me here. Yes, it is a very bizarre situation that took place. Reports of the secret services in Brazil already showed that there would be some turmoil those days. So there was some expectation, but the moment was not known. It was not known what would happen in the end. What will happen in the future would be that the Brazilian authorities will now have to investigate very thoroughly who is behind these riots, these attacks against Brazilian democracy. It will be in the interests of the Brazilian authorities to organize an independent inquiry as balanced as possible, because as we saw some of the followers and allies of Bolsonaro, including the leader of the Liberal Party, including the governor of Brasilia, were not very much in line with those these events, because they know very well that Bolsonaro is now history. He might think of coming back in the future, but this will be far in the future. But for the present days, Bolsonaro is not even in Brazil, and they have now to pay the entire bill.

What happened there sounds for many people, including Brazilian voters of Bolsonaro, as being not an act of resistance, but for at least some of them, it looked like an imitation, a pitiful imitation of what happened in the US on the 6th of January 2021. And because of that, this image is not what the Liberal Party and the moderate rightwing in Brazil would like to have stick to them for the next couple of years. So I think that there are better chances than before in the past to have some sort of more balanced reconciliation because this didn’t serve at all the cause of the contests of Lula. And the contest has to happen in a much more intelligent way if they want to really solidify their ground.

Significance of extreme right’s rise in international politics

Throughout the world, including in Europe, but also in other places there is a rise of extreme right people who seem to be like Bolsonaro supporters. What is this resurgence or return to the extreme right creating as a change in politics now?

I think that there is a mechanical effect. First of all, a part of the right wing became totally liberal and centrist internationalist. Of course, it does that in some limits, but it is still much in line with globalization, especially with business, globalism. And another part of the right went into the ultra conservative camp. There is no such thing as a unitary right wing. And this right of the right became increasingly radicalized. It went hand in hand with the extreme right classical platforms, meaning the most radical, those who were not even able to join the parliament because they were too violent to fascists, to Nazis and so on. And the result is that now we have a strong ultra right, far right group of parties, platforms, social media based groups and so on, who act very strongly and influence the entire right wing politics. In many countries of the world, there is a common influence among these groups. They contaminate each other, they boost each other. And when unhappy, we see that regretfully they are now storming the institutions and we cannot help ourselves observing that in periods of crisis, in periods of lack of clear guidelines and consensual democracy like it happened in the 1930s, we’ve got such such events. So regretfully enough, the leaders of the mainstream right wing parties in Europe, in Latin America, in the Middle East and in in the United States and elsewhere also were not able to contain their extremes and their liberal path opened up a lot of space, especially economically, but also culturally, for the development of this very strong and worrying far right, ultra right combination that now is the most important political force on the entire right in many countries of the world.

Technopopulism and extreme right populism

The reaction to what Donald Trump represented led to Joe Biden and to other governments which were based on some kind of techno populism. So we have on one hand the rise of extreme right populism or conservative populism, but on the other hand, what is going on with techno populism when in the current conditions, when it is lost in Israel, in Italy and in other places?

We’ve got this discontent against some sort of middle way, third way, consensual politics, that instead of being deliberative, instead of including many individuals into the decision making processes, instead of trying to become, let’s say, inclusive, it went on a dogmatic, technocratic path. And we can see this within the European Union at the top of the European Union itself. We can see this in other parts of the world. And we can also depict in this way the reaction of the far right and ultra right in many countries as a counter reaction against this technocratization of politics and against this claim that once we have good technocrats leading different fields, acting in a quasi mechanical way, then we don’t need any more politics, we don’t need any more challenge against what is, let’s put it this way, “normal governance”. Against this fake attempt to kill politics we saw on one hand, the rise of the left, but also of the elements of the far left, including, for instance, anarchism and on the other hand, much more easy to observe. And as we saw in the case of Brazil, much more dangerous than it was before – we see the rise of an ultra right, very conservative, very religiously dogmatic, very much oriented against inclusiveness and against multiculturalism and ready to do whatever necessary, including these appeals that we saw in Brazil for a coup d’etat made by the military in order to stay in power or to control power.

Who supports Lula internationally and who doesn’t?

Just to finish with the short one. Lula received a lot of support in the world. But when we look at the list of people who showed solidarity with his rule or with democracy in Brazil, who was missing from this list and who was present?

We see, of course, that presidents such as Macron or Biden were on this list, and this is unsurprising. I think that the reactions will continue because these events are very, very recent, and we will have reactions from all over all over the world. Of course, we won’t have reactions from Russia, from China, or from other countries with autocratic or semi autocratic regimes. And we won’t have positive reactions of support for Lula from different other players in Latin America who would like to replace sometimes the left wing presidents as it happened in the case of Peru, for instance, with coalition-supported right wing leaders later on organizing elections and capturing power. This was also the case of Brazil before the election of Bolsonaro, and because of that, support for democracy per se, respectful of the identity of the leader who controls democracy, who is elected and who has the right to rule is quite problematic. So we will see endless cleavages. And this is more very worrying because there is no more such thing as institutional neutrality or an attempt to work in an institutional framework to respect the result of elections and to try to organise yourself for the next elections. We have an immediate will to storm the institutions and because of this strong cleavage and because of this partisanship that we can identify all over the world. Reactions of support against attacking democracy and trying to replace democratically elected leaders come only from those who are themselves in a logical framework of alliance with that leader at the global level. So no more neutrality, no more institutional legitimacy. And instead of that, we have a clear cut between liberal and anti liberal forces. And this is very worrying because we can also imagine the opposite scenario where let’s say moderate rightwing candidates are elected and then the left will be pushed to attack the institutions to do whatever the far right did before. That’s more than worrying. That’s a catastrophe for our already precarious democratic systems.

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