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Transparency International Brazil: After legitimate election, Workers' Party must centre anti-corruption in new administration

Issued by Transparency International Brazil

On 30 October, the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) confirmed that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the election for Brazil’s presidency. To avoid further threats to the democratic order, Transparency International Brazil urges incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro to promptly recognise the result of the second round of elections, as verified by the competent authority of the Electoral Justice of Brazil, and start transparent and efficient government transition procedures.

In recent years, anti-corruption discourse in Brazil has been hijacked by populist authoritarianism. Throughout his term, President Bolsonaro repeated the lie that his government had put an end to corruption – when in fact, Bolsonaro and his family directly contributed to the problem. From the early days of his administration, the Bolsonaro family was besieged by numerous investigations that raised abundant evidence of corruption and other crimes.

In an attempt to evade repercussions, President Bolsonaro’s administration began to dismantle legal and institutional anti-corruption frameworks that had taken decades for the country to build. He and his supporters damaged the capacity and independence of key institutions such as the public prosecutor’s office and federal police through a variety of methods – from weakening anti-corruption legislation, interfering in the work of oversight bodies, going after the integrity of public officials and publicly attacking any opposition from the investigative press to civil society.

The Bolsonaro government also took part in the “secret budget”, considered the biggest institutionalised corruption scandal in Brazil’s history. The scheme, developed by the “Centrão” – a political block that sides with incumbent governments in exchange for political and financial perks – subverted the process for allocating federal resources, allowing legislators to redirect funding wherever they wish. Called “secret” because there is almost no oversight of lawmakers determining where to send the money, watchdogs, journalists and activists are still working to understand who controlled the funding. The Bolsonaro administration took full advantage of the process to buy political support. It’s already clear that the scheme led to widespread corruption, with federal resources poured into small municipalities and lack of oversight mechanisms. Even worse, the resources boosted Bolsonaro’s political allies in their election campaigns.

The Bolsonaro administration’s gutting of anti-corruption protections remains an existential threat to democracy in Brazil – which the newly elected Workers' Party (PT) government must urgently address as a way to demonstrate their commitment to anti-corruption and resume the fight against it in Brazil.

It was during the Lula and Dilma Rousseff administrations that Brazil made its most significant anti-corruption advancements, developing better laws and institutions, including public policies to promote transparency and social participation – thus opening up civic space.

However, the Worker's Party has yet to offer a concrete plan to reverse the last four years of setbacks and root out the corruption that is so deeply entrenched in the political and economic system. Worryingly, prior PT administrations, just as all previous governments, have been involved in massive corruption schemes. These decades of scandals have resulted in serious economic, social and environmental consequences – and grievous damage to the institution of democracy in Brazil.

Transparency International calls on the newly elected government to restore oversight institutions over political interests and ensure transparency in governmental decision-making to rescue anti-corruption efforts, democracy and the fight for human rights.