While President Jair Bolsonaro has been suggesting that he may dispute a loss in Sunday’s election, Brazil’s courts, lawmakers and electoral officials have tried to ease worries — at home and abroad — by promising that the results will be respected and that the nation’s democracy will not be threatened by a coup.
Many of those same officials, however, admit privately that there is still the potential for violence.
Mr. Bolsonaro has built a sizable base of fervent supporters, who have become increasingly convinced that the election will be rigged against their candidate. In July, three out of four supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro told Brazil’s most prominent polling company that they trusted the voting machines only a “little” or not at all.
The New York Times interviewed more than a dozen of Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters ahead of the vote about their views on election security. While some said they didn’t believe the vote would be manipulated, most expressed deep mistrust in the integrity of the electoral process. And should Mr. Bolsonaro lose, many said they were prepared to take to the streets, especially if the president urged them on.
“The only thing that can take victory from Bolsonaro is fraud,” said Luiz Sartorelli, 54, a software salesman in São Paulo. He ticked off several conspiracy theories about past fraud as proof. “If you want peace, sometimes you need to prepare for war.”
Though polls have consistently suggested that Mr. Bolsonaro is unlikely to win, Liduina Bezerra Soares, a 58-year-old teacher in Brasília, believed that the incumbent should draw well in excess of 50 percent of the vote. If he is “cheated out of a victory,” she said she would not keep quiet. “From there on, there’s nothing to lose,” she said. “I’m going to the streets.”
Alex Timóteo, a 36-year-old salesman from Jundiaí, in São Paulo state, said he also believed Mr. Bolsonaro would win a majority of the vote, but he dismissed the risk of a stolen election. He said that Sunday’s ballot would show the extent of Mr. Bolsonaro’s popularity and that he would be returned to office.
“We have to wait to see the results to know,” said Mr. Timóteo, who leads a right-wing community group in his hometown. “But we trust in the Electoral Court,” he added, referring to Brazil’s election authority.
Leonardo Leão Morais, 42, a social worker in Tabira, a city in Brazil’s northeast, said he was prepared to “fight for his right to question” the results, though he ruled out violence.
“I believe it will be a peaceful election, until the result comes out,” he said. “There won’t be a revolution, there won’t be protests — if there is a fair vote.”
One concern involving potential protests is how the police and the military would react since they could be called upon to restore order. Many rank-and-file law enforcement and armed forces members are supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro.
Earlier this year, Brazil’s military leaders also began questioning the security of the voting machines. But they have since reached an agreement with election officials on a change to tests of the machines and they have now suggested that they trust the electoral system.