Strengthening democracy by countering authoritarian narratives: Brazil’s election & beyond

May 2, 2022


Purpose Brasil’s Democracy Lab will work in constructing narratives for democratic solutions as a way of opposing authoritarian discourses incorporated in the anti-corruption battle. 

Over the past few years, Brazilian politics has come into disrepute, with corruption being identified as the main cause of precariousness of its democracy.

One of the central themes of public discussion, the anti-corruption discourse has been captured by an authoritarian logic, reinforcing punitive, moralistic and anti-political views as ways out. Such views, which intensify moral notions of “good and evil”, of punishment and imprisonment, fail to attack the root of the corruption problem, nor do they provide a systemic view of this agenda. 

Far from just words, such type of discourse also translates into the dismantling of the anti-corruption structure in Brazil during the Jair Bolsonaro government, leading the country to drop positions in international rankings of corruption perception. In this escalation of authoritarianism, we have also seen setbacks in access to information, public transparency and social participation, as well as a reduction in civic space, and an increase in violence against journalists

Practices of social participation, transparency, access to information, promotion of integrity and social control structures are crucial, both for fighting corruption and for strengthening democracy. Despite being essential, this agenda has not yet presented itself as the main way out, and its narratives have not yet proved capable of opposing the authoritarian discourse that has emerged and solidified over recent years.

This year, Brazil will experience one of the most important moments in its history: the presidential election will be a turning point leading to the worsening of the erosion of democracy in the country or its strengthening. This time window has presented itself as a great opportunity to debate the fate of Brazilian national politics – and corruption will certainly emerge as one of the central themes of this discussion. Therefore, it is necessary to recover the democratic essence of this cause.

What we want: to strengthen democratic voices 

Faced with this scenario, Purpose’s Democracy Lab will work with the anti-corruption agenda, seeking to support democratic voices in the dissemination of narratives focused on effective solutions to the problem. Such voices, those of organizations specialized in the subject, communication collectives and influencers, are crucial to validate and disseminate solution narratives in this context, and we want to build together with them.  

How we will do it:

These are the means through which we will echo such voices throughout 2022:

  • Construction of narratives and messages of democratic solutions: an in-depth study and research on how and who addresses corruption today. We want to build a Solution Narrative Guide to support the communication and engagement strategies of the organizations’ ecosystem.
  • Strengthening the communication and engagement capabilities of the democratic ecosystem, with training processes to support communication strategy and engagement of civil society organizations. The aim is to spread the use of the Guide and strategies to dispute the anti-corruption narrative, especially within Brazil’s electoral period. 
  • Campaigns for strategic audiences seeking to fill gaps in sociability and building bridges of dialogue: in addition to supporting the ecosystem of organizations, we want these messages to reach people. Two audiences are priorities for the Democracy Lab: young people, especially gamers; and publics of faith, especially evangelicals. 

Building new social notions that value respect for divergence is a long way to go, but it is of fundamental importance to weave bonds of trust and political change. We believe, however, that the first step towards this is building collective actions capable of transforming the way we address corruption. This is how we contribute to strengthening our democracy. 

Laila Bellix Senior Strategist
Lígia Oliveira Senior Campaigner
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