Populist Rulers Cannot Lose Elections
Populist rulers face a dilemma. Since they embody “the people” and realize “the will of the people,” they cannot lose elections. The people cannot vote against itself. My Independent Review article on “The Impossibility of Populism” explained this in more details. But here is a current illustration.
Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, faces the same dilemma as Donald Trump did: there is a good probability that he will lose the forthcoming presidential election in October. So what does he do? Something similar to what Trump did in both 2016 and 2020: he warns his followers in advance that if he loses, it will mean that the election was rigged. The Economist explains (“Might Jair Bolsonaro Try to Steal Brazil’s Election?” July 14, 2022):
[Mr. Bolsonaro] is also sowing doubt about the electoral process. He tells supporters he can only be defeated if the contest is rigged. This suggests he may dispute the result if he loses. …
On July 7th Mr Bolsonaro insinuated that Mr Fachin [the president of the electoral court] “already knows” the outcome of the election. He peddles such twaddle while insisting that Brazil’s electronic-voting system is susceptible to fraud. The system has been used in Brazil since 1996 with no evidence of irregularities. …
His opponents fear that if the vote is close, he may claim he was robbed of victory and try to cling on by foul means.