Electoral Processes

Civic Participation
Election Monitoring
Voter Information
Voting Rights and Access

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Protect Democracy

Protect Democracy: Safeguarding integrity and rule of law in Brazil's 2022 election 


The Problem
Since 2019, Brazil has witnessed a systematic assault on fundamental rights, institutions, and democratic norms, accompanied by a deliberate narrowing of civic space and suppression of social participation. The former president, Jair Bolsonaro, orchestrated relentless disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining trust in the electoral system, threatening to delegitimize election results, and often said he would not recognize the election results if he didn't win, reinforcing the clear possibility of an attempted coup. Simultaneously, legislative changes further curtailed democratic processes, stifling debate, and diminishing opposition parties' ability to act. This multifaceted assault on democracy put at risk the realization of safe, free and fair elections and the respect for its results, imperiling the very foundation of Brazil's rule of law and democratic governance.  

The Approach
The Protect Democracy - 2022 Elections initiative orchestrated a comprehensive strategy to safeguard Brazil's democratic process against escalating threats under the Bolsonaro administration. Through rigorous monitoring, the project assessed potential risks, including disinformation campaigns and attempts to undermine electoral integrity. For the first time since Brazilian re-democratization more than 30 years ago, engagement efforts mobilized a wide spectrum of civil society actors, from trade union members to academics, varying widely at the political and ideological spectrum, fostering a robust coalition dedicated to defending democratic values. The group created awareness campaigns, leveraging traditional and digital media platforms, disseminated accurate information, countered falsehoods, and educated the public on the importance of preserving electoral integrity.

Dialogues with key stakeholders, such as judiciary officials and top ranked legislators, yielded commitments to uphold democratic norms and ensure a level playing field for all political parties. Internationally, diplomatic initiatives sought support from global allies and international observers, bolstering the credibility of Brazil's electoral process on the world stage. 

As election day drew closer, a dedicated situation room facilitated real-time coordination among civil society organizations, enabling swift responses to emerging challenges. The efforts culminated in the Civic Vigil, which was hosted at the Brazil Bar Association and endorsed by 35 civil society organizations and was attended by 120 people daily in-person, and many more virtually. This space provided a unique and visible manifestation of grassroots solidarity and the power of civil society articulation, with volunteers monitoring polling stations, ensuring voter access, and safeguarding the sanctity of the ballot. 

The Impact

  • The project successfully anticipated threats and contributed to avoiding interference in the electoral process of 2022. 

  • The initiative greatly increased civil society capacity of mobilization, uniting groups that historically have not supported each other. This resulted in the biggest event in defense of democracy in recent Brazilian history, with thousands of people and had national and international media coverage.  

  • The creation of a task force in partnership with the D.A. Office of Sao Paulo took proactive measures to address escalating violence against candidates and voters, particularly marginalized communities like women and the LGBTQIA+ community. 

  • Diplomatic engagements resulted in policy changes, such as the ban by the Superior Electoral Court on the transportation of weapons around election days, aimed at safeguarding the electoral process from acts of violence and intimidation. 

  • The international task force's success in securing recognition of election results from over 90 countries underscored the project's impact in bolstering international validation of democratic processes and countering attempts to undermine electoral outcomes. 

  • The 'Respect the Result’ social media campaign garnered 23 million views. 

The Future
Amidst growing threats to democracy, highlighted by the coup attempt in January 2023, the project is gearing up for the upcoming municipal elections, and already anticipating needs and opportunities to protect the federal elections in 2026. It will prioritize building public trust in electronic voting machines and coordinating stakeholders to mitigate residual risks. Additionally, plans include publishing a comprehensive analysis of the 2022 experience to inform and establish an inter-American network in defense of democracy, and share globally experience and learnings, especially among those democracies facing similar challenges as those seen in Brazil.