Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved election day. Even though I could not vote myself, I remember being 6 years old and waking up super excited because it was finally the day to go and vote. Even though everyone around me saw voting as an annoying obligation that was disturbing their Sunday, I always saw it as a celebration. Nowadays, I keep that feeling but it is exacerbated by the fact that I am the one who has the chance to have an impact on my country. Looking back, I can see that even as a child I was a pretty big fan of democracy.
The Brazilian elections are happening this Sunday, October 2nd, and I maintain my excitement about it. However, this year, the feeling is bittersweet. I have been stuck with a president that I absolutely despise for the last four years. However, his opposition – who will probably win from the looks of the election polls- is Lula, a former president of a party involved in what is considered the biggest corruption scandal in history.
The country has been polarized between those two ends of the spectrum ever since the last election. That is, to simplify a very long story, because despite Lula’s corruption scandals, he lifted millions out of poverty. Thus, the country is split: one one side are those who hate him for stealing public money and would rather vote for anyone else (e.g. Bolsonaro). On the other side are those who either actually feel represented by Lula for his accomplishments, or just hate Bolsonaro so much that they would rather vote for anyone else. I find myself in the last group, yet my vote is still undecided because of how the elections work in Brazil.
There is the first round, and unless one of the candidates gets over 50% of the votes in it, there is a second round with the two most voted candidates. The polls currently show that 47% of the valid votes are intended for Lula, as opposed to 31% for Bolsonaro. There are also other candidates who realistically have no chance of winning, however they pose their candidacies as an attempt to embody a “3rd route” for those who don’t feel represented by either.
Thus, here is my moral dilemma: amongst all the candidates, I feel most represented by some who have no chance of winning. I have always been an advocate for the idea that every vote matters and a strong believer in the cliche that if every voter believes in that, true change can be accomplished. However, I now find myself stuck between that belief, my hatred for Bolsonaro, and my conviction to get him out of power. That is because if I vote for Lula in the first round, I can increase the chances that he wins with over 50% of the votes and Bolsonaro doesn’t even get a chance in the second round.
It all boils down to one question: how much is my vote really worth? Putting aside some further national political analysis that could be made, I have two choices. The first one is voting for the candidate that represents me best, knowing they will not win. However, hopefully, my vote could strengthen a different candidate so that in future elections people realize they do have different alternatives. On the other hand, that is based on the assumption that my vote matters enough to strengthen a candidate who has no chance of winning – again, falling into the cliche that if more and more people start thinking like me, we can achieve political change.
My other choice is to have a more realistic approach, knowing that my vote will be just one amongst hundreds of millions, and is not important enough to strengthen a candidate who currently is only supported by less than 10% of voters. Therefore, considering that the polls show that Lula is very close to winning in the first round, my one vote could have a bigger impact in helping him win. In this scenario, I would assess that one vote amongst the 3-6% which Lula needs to win in the first round is stronger than one more vote for a candidate who would need over 40% more votes to win.
At the end of the day, this is a question of whether I want to take a consequentialist approach of making the most out of my vote to remove from office a president who has made irreparable damage to my country, or a deontological approach of voting for who I truly believe would be the best candidate.
Regardless of the choice I make, I hope this serves as inspiration for my fellow Brazilians, as well as voters elsewhere in the world, to take the time and effort to vote consciously. The fact that we have the opportunity to choose those who will represent us in the government for the next couple of years should not be taken for granted. Having the chance to do so gives me a sense of power that is the source of my excitement on election day. Thus, even if you do not feel represented by all the candidates, use democracy as an opportunity to make a difference in your country, and vote responsibly.
Featured image by: ABC Internacional