Brazilian elections marked by ‘profound voter anger,’ says Baker Institute expert


David Ruth

Jeff Falk

Brazilian elections marked by ‘profound voter anger,’ says Baker Institute expert Sabatini: ‘Brazilian citizens are rejecting their political system’

HOUSTON – (Sept. 19, 2018) – In advance of next month’s presidential elections in Brazil, “No one has put forward a plan and clearly Brazilian voters are in no mood to discuss tough decisions,” according to a Latin America expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Credit: University

Christopher Sabatini, a nonresident fellow with the Baker Institute’s Latin America Initiative and Mexico Center, is available to discuss the elections with the news media.

“After a decade of being one of the darlings of the international business and diplomatic community, Brazil appears to have run off the rails,” Sabatini wrote in a blog post for the Baker Institute. “The confluence of economic troubles and political uncertainty is a toxic cocktail that threatens not only the country’s laudable economic gains but its democracy.”

After experiencing an average annual growth rate of 4.05 percent in the decade between 2004 and 2013, Brazil experienced a recession in which the economy contracted by an average of 2.17 percent annually between 2014 and 2016, Sabatini said.

“In the midst of this, and not coincidentally, Brazil’s political system entered a meltdown, first with the revelation of the massive corruption scandal Lava Jato, later with the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff over budgeting matters unrelated to the corruption revelations, and last a badly splintered presidential field and profound voter anger heading into the Oct. 7 congressional and presidential elections,” Sabatini wrote.

The leader in a crowded presidential field is a former army captain and congressman, Jair Bolsonaro, who has “promised an iron fist against criminals, pined for the military’s return to politics and mocked women, the human rights community and homosexuals,” Sabatini wrote. “Bolsonaro’s rise — he’s now leading in first-round elections with more than 20 percent of the vote — reflects widespread voter anger at the economic downturn, a contracting new middle class, a perceived-corrupt political class and personal insecurity — with more than 63,800 murders across the country in 2017.

“No one has put forward a plan and clearly Brazilian voters are in no mood to discuss tough decisions. Rather, their passions have been directed elsewhere. Whether decrying the corrupt political class, responding to tragic crime rates or rejecting a polarized and polarizing political system, Brazilian citizens are rejecting their political system and turning away from concrete economic policy proposals. In the end, whatever the outcome of an open-ended polarized and fractured election in October and a likely second round in November, the real victim of Brazil’s economic and political malaise will likely be its economic policy that has limped along for close to five years now.”

Sabatini concluded, “And that may be the most damning story going forward for Brazil’s economy and its democracy.”


For more information or to schedule an interview with Sabatini, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6775.

Related materials:

Sabatini blog:

Sabatini bio:

Sabatini on Twitter: @ChrisSabatini

Follow the Baker Institute via Twitter @BakerInstitute.

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Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top three university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.