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What is Next for Brazil’s Vibrant Social Movement? #EleNao, Ele-no-More?

The aim of Brazil’s social opposition movement #EleNao was to prevent Jair Bolsonaro being elected. Based on the election result, #EleNao has failed, but once they regroup they show all signs of a resistance movement to be reckoned with.

Brazil has spoken. Following a presidential race fraught with scandal, controversy, and a spike in violence, Sunday’s election results have confirmed victory for the far-right Jair Bolsonaro. Brazil has a history peppered with resistance and revolutions, and this campaign has been divisive, bloody, and violent, creating a platform for a far-right ideology to emerge and multiply.

So what now for Brazil? There are concerns that the Latin American country is poised on the edge of a precipice, with many Brazilians worried for their individual safety and the future of their country.

There are fears, expectations, and indications that the victory of Bolsonaro – the so-called “Trump of the Tropics” – spells disaster for the environment, women, minorities, the indigenous, and LGBTQ+, among others, with speculation that this will be a death knell for the young democracy.

An exodus of anti-Bolsonaro Brazilians is likely to occur. For example, before the elections, applications from Brazilians for Portuguese citizenship had doubled compared to 2017 figures. Although in a country of 211 million the amount of those planning to leave is relatively insignificant compared to the overall population, this figure will be comprised of a disproportionately high number of young left-leaning citizens, which, over time, will likely have a noticeable impact on the socio-political landscape of the country.

Uniting Anti-Bolsonaro Groups

During the electoral campaign, active opposition movements sprang up on both sides, and have clashed in both ideological and bloody ways. One of the most prolific and visible of these is the #EleNao social movement. #EleNao is something of an umbrella campaign: it covers the anti-Bolsonaro contingent, uniting the “Women Against Bolsonaro” (over 3.8 million members), “Men Against Bolsonaro” (over 203,000 members), and “LGBTI+ Against Bolsonaro” (over 306,000 members) groups.

Despite functioning largely as an online campaign, #EleNao displays the characteristics of a traditional social movement and has mobilized protests on the streets. The primary aim of the campaign was to prevent Bolsonaro being elected, hence the adoption of the slogans #EleNao (not him) #EleNunca (never him) and #EleJamais (he never).

While the movement framed itself as anti-Bolsonaro, its aim is broader than that, identifying itself as a generalized Brazilian resistance and anti-fascism movement, encompassing support for minority rights, women’s rights, LGBTQI+ rights, and human rights.

Failing Social Movement?

Before going into decline and disappearing, a social movement such as this will either succeed, fail, be co-opted, repressed, or become mainstream, according to sociologist Charles Tilly. By all accounts, based on the election result, the #EleNao movement has failed, and today it is bruised and dejected in the face of this perceived failure.

So, what is the next move for #EleNao? Prior to the election, they pledged to continue their fight and resist this right-wing shift regardless of who secured the victory. The deciding factor of whether the #EleNao movement sees future success is down to how they regroup and identify their new focus.

According to social change activist Bill Moyer, for a social movement to become mainstream, gain majority support, and be successful, it must convince the public of three things: that there is a problem, that this problem can be overcome with opposition, and that they want the alternatives rather than to fear them.

In this sense, the motivation to convince the public is certainly there for the millions of people involved in the movement. On the other hand, although it is easy to presume that Bolsonaro’s supporters are simply in favor of his right-wing rhetoric, this is reductive.

Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro.
President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Mauro Piemtel, AFP

Beyond the fraction of supporters who align with Bolsonaro’s brand of neo-fascism, there are millions of voters who, despite voting for him, would claim not to share his views. In this case, Moyer’s scheme explains why 55.1 percent of the electorate voted for Bolsonaro on Sunday: they were convinced there was a problem with the ruling PT party, they opposed the PT candidate, and voted for Bolsonaro as a vote for change.

#EleNao’s Revised Resistance

Conversely, an active campaign of encouraging every member of the #EleNao movement to strive to convert at least one vote each, saw thousands of null or undecided voters decide to vote for Fernando Haddad instead for Bolsonaro in the days leading up to the campaign.

This is reflected in the unexpected drop of Bolsonaro’s lead on the eve of the election when his support fell from 59 to 54 percent. If the #EleNao movement is credited with even a fraction of this, then it is an impressively effective movement. Once they regroup following the disappointment of Sunday’s election result, they show all signs of a resistance movement to be reckoned with.

The movement is committed to continuing, and the “Women Against Bolsonaro” group is currently polling its members for a new name. It is too early to judge how these groups will realign and reassert themselves, but they are poised to fight.

Today in Brazil, Bolsonaro supporters are jubilant, while Haddad supporters are heartbroken. The #EleNao collective is rallying and regrouping as it waits with bated breath for a trigger to focus their revised resistance on. Brazil’s future under Bolsonaro can only be speculative until he takes office on January 1 but this is not the final cry of #EleNao.

DISCLAIMER! The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.

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