Letter From the Editors

On Jan. 8, when news footage showed thousands of people breaking into Brazil’s government buildings to protest the runoff loss by former leader Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential election, many viewers were reminded of the day almost exactly two years earlier when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol for similar reasons. Indeed, the right-wing Bolsonaro had often been likened to Trump, even acquiring the nickname “Tropical Trump.”

However, Russian experts are quick to point out differences between the two events. According to Dmitry Razumovsky, the Brasilia protests “did not come as a pleasant surprise, particularly to Jair Bolsonaro himself. . . . Even though Bolsonaro did not officially admit defeat in early November, he still called on his supporters to limit themselves to peaceful protests . . . [and] told them not to commit any violent acts.” When the government buildings were stormed, “he didn’t give any words of support to the protesters: Instead, he said that these were actually acts of vandalism and violations of the Constitution.” In Razumovsky’s view, Bolsonaro was trying to build up enough long-term political capital to win the next election, and the attempted coup has hurt his chances.

Speaking of frustrated chances, Nikolai Mitrokhin argues that electoral politics in Ukraine was one of the triggers for Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade the country: “[T]he point of no return in the new round of the conflict and in the preparation for military intervention was essentially passed when [Ukrainian President] Zelensky rejected Putin’s previous behind-the-scenes agreements with [former Ukrainian] president [Petro] Poroshenko and the Kremlin’s semi-official representative Viktor Medvedchuk. He destroyed the media empires of both oligarchs and the chances for success of Medvedchuk’s Opposition Platform for Life party, which could have vastly outperformed [Zelensky’s] Sluga Naroda party in the upcoming Supreme Rada elections.”

In fact, as those elections draw nearer, the Kyiv government seems to be going even further. In June 2022, Medvedchuk’s party was banned outright by the Ukrainian Justice Ministry; and now, as reported by Natalya Prikhodko, Rada deputy

Taras Batenko has urged the parliament’s procedural committee to consider a bill that would punish current deputies who participate in banned parties. Batenko made the intention of the bill crystal-clear: “As of today, this is the only effective and constitutional way to deprive deputies . . . who were elected from OPFL of the ability to take part in council meetings and serve on committees.” The longer-term goal, he said, is to purge the parliament of the “Russian world,” which is something that “all conscientious Ukrainians” strive for.

The parliament in Kazakhstan may be revamped even sooner than its Ukrainian counterpart: Elections to the upper house are slated for Jan. 14, and the lower house (Mazhilis) is expected to be dissolved in the next few days as a preparatory step to early elections. In an apparent bid to give Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev’s emerging regime an edge, deputies have stripped his influential predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, of the title of honorary senator. Political analyst Dosym Satpayev says that Senate elections do not hold much meaning in Kazakhstan, but that the Mazhilis race looks more interesting – at least from the outside.

For example, there are two new parties in the running, as well as independent candidates. However, he explains, the entire election process is under the control of the executive branch, and 70% of candidates are running on party lists. Satpayev concludes that Tokayev’s party “will make it so there are no big surprises, no outsider elements show up in parliament and the parliament itself is controlled.”

Quite a contrast to the out-of-control protests over the Brazilian election, in which two equally strong candidates, Bolsonaro and Lula, went head to head. What’s that thing that Churchill once said about democracy being the worst form of government?