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Trump and Bolsonaro poll results rejection might inspire many copycats

Former US President Donald Trump. [AP Photo] 

A worrying political trend; election result rejection, appears to be emerging as a coup making tool. It comes from demagogic people masquerading as democrats. They command public following and are good at studying the electoral systems, seemingly to turn these systems upside down.

They, in the process, exploit inherent weaknesses in the systems, identify ‘villains’ to blame for things going wrong, and tend to equate the ‘system’ with their selves. They divide the countries by generating, inspiring, and promoting negative nationalism that denies plain reality.

This rejection trend happened in the US and Brazil where organised mobs attacked institutions to ‘stop the count’ or to reverse the official election outcome. In both countries, supporters of losers/deniers stormed revered state institutions in their coup attempts.

The effort to alter the election outcome in the US did not start with Donald Trump. It goes back to 1800 when some federalists tried to steal the election from Thomas Jefferson. This necessitated an amendment to the constitution to require that the presidential and vice-presidential votes in the Electoral College be cast separately.

There was unhappiness in 1824 when no one won and the decision went to the House of Representatives which then favoured the candidate with the second highest popular and electoral votes.

Accusations of corrupt bargain prepared grounds for Jacksonian democracy for white men and the rise of the party of the donkey, the Democratic Party. There was also serious party bargaining in 1877 in which the Republicans sacrificed former slaves in order to retain the presidency.

It then took 140 years before Trump found a winning formula in 2016 only for the losing Democrats to imply that the America electoral system was so weak that the Russians had helped to elect Trump.

In denying that Trump won the election fairly, the Democrats laid the ground for Trump to claim that the said flawed system rigged him out in 2020. He then, on January 6, 2021 condoned an attack on the Congress in an effort to ‘stop the count’ of the electoral vote.

This essentially failed coup in the US probably influenced election deniers in places like Kenya and Brazil where election denial also bordered on violence. Although Kenya occasionally ends up in limited electoral violence, it is on two occasions only that there was real threat to the state.

In both instances, the equivalent of ‘stop the count’ was the attempt to ‘stop the announcement’ of presidential election results. It first happened at KICC in December 2007 as ‘stop the announcement’ movement spiraled out in organised violent form.

It also happened at the Bomas of Kenya in August 2022 where IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati appeared to be the target of violence. The two ‘stop the announcement’ incidents made KICC and Bomas tense.

Brazil has had checkered political times, swinging between socialistic and capitalistic highs. It embraced the concept of 21st Century Socialism and elected Inacio Lula da Silva in 2004. After bequeathing the presidency to Dilma Rousseff in 2011, who served until 2018, Lula returned in 2022 and narrowly ended Jair Bolsonaro’s one-term presidency.

Bolsonaro saw himself as the Trump of Latin America and, like Trump, was also in denial. Other than denying that coronavirus was real, Bolsonaro followed Trump’s example and denied that he lost. Subsequently, his election deniers tried to destroy such state institutions as Congress, the Judiciary, and the Presidency in order to ‘stop the government’ from functioning. 

Coups through election results denial are likely to assume normalcy as demagogues in other countries try to emulate the negative aspects of American or Brazilian influence.

Having lost narrowly and with large followings, Trump and Bolsonaro might inspire demagogic copycats to regularise election result denials. This might turn election denial into an instrument for coups. The trend, if not checked, portends democratic disaster.