Brazilian presidential: the face-to-face of Lula and Bolsonaro in the second round
Brazil votes for a new president on Sunday, in the final round of a polarizing election that has been described as the most important in the country’s democratic history.
The choice is between two starkly different candidates – leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, and far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro – as the country grapples with high inflation , limited growth and growing poverty.
Growing anger overshadowed the poll as both men used their massive influence, online and offline, to tackle every turn. The clashes between their supporters have left many voters worried about what is yet to come.
The race could be tight. Neither won more than 50% in a first-round vote earlier this month, forcing the two leading candidates into Sunday’s run-off.
Lula served as president for two terms, from 2003 to 2006 and from 2007 to 2011, where he led the country through a commodity boom that helped fund huge social welfare programs and bail out millions. of poverty.
The charismatic politician is known for his dramatic backstory: He didn’t learn to read until he was 10, left school after fifth grade to work full-time and continued to lead strikes workers who challenged military rule in the 1970s. He co-founded the Workers’ Party (PT), which became Brazil’s main left-wing political force.
Lula left office with a 90% approval rating – a record tarnished, however, by Brazil’s biggest corruption probe, dubbed ‘Operation Car Wash’, which has led to charges against hundreds of politicians and officials. high-ranking businessmen across Latin America. He was convicted of bribery and money laundering in 2017, but a court overturned his conviction in March 2021, paving the way for his political rebound « in a plot worthy of one of Brazil’s beloved telenovelas, » Bruna Santos, a senior adviser at the Wilson Institute’s Brazil Center, told CNN.
His rival, Bolsonaro, is a former army captain who served as a federal deputy for 27 years. Bolsonaro was seen as a fringe figure in politics for much of this period before emerging in the mid-2010s as the figurehead of a more radically right-wing movement, which perceived the PT as its main enemy.
He ran for president in 2018 with the conservative Liberal Party, campaigning as a political underdog and anti-corruption candidate, and earned the nickname « Trump of the Tropics ». A divisive figure, Bolsonaro has become known for his bombastic statements and his conservative agenda, which is backed by prominent evangelical leaders in the country.
But poverty grew during his tenure as president, and his popularity took a hit on his handling of the pandemic, which he called a « little flu », before the virus killed more than 680,000 people in the country. .
Bolsonaro’s government has become known for supporting ruthless land exploitation in the Amazon, leading to record deforestation figures. Environmentalists have warned that the future of the rainforest could be at stake in this election.
The race is tight for the two household names who take radically different paths to prosperity.
Bolsonaro’s campaign is a continuation of his conservative, pro-business agenda. Bolsonaro has promised to increase mining, privatize state-owned companies and produce more sustainable energy to drive down energy prices. But he also pledged to continue paying a monthly benefit of R$600 (about US$110) to low-income households known as Auxilio Brasil, without clearly defining how it will be paid.
Bolsonaro accelerated those financial aid payments this month, a move seen by critics as politically motivated. “As the election approached, his government made direct payments to working-class and poor voters — in a classic populist move,” Santos told CNN.
Bolsonaro’s socially conservative message, which includes slurs against political correctness and the promotion of traditional gender roles, has effectively rallied his base of conservative Brazilian voters, she also said.
Lula’s political agenda has been light on details, largely focusing on promises to improve the fortunes of Brazilians based on past achievements, analysts say.
He wants to put the state back at the heart of economic policy and public spending, promising a new tax regime that will allow for an increase in public spending. He has vowed to end hunger in the country, which has returned under the Bolsonaro government. Lula also promises to work to reduce carbon emissions and deforestation in the Amazon.
But Santos warns he will face an uphill battle: « With a fragile fiscal scenario (in Brazil) and little power over the budget, it won’t be easy. »
Lula faces a hostile congress if he becomes president. Congressional elections on October 3 gave Bolsonaro allies the most seats in both houses: Bolsonaro’s right-wing Liberal Party increased its seats to 99 in the lower house, and parties allied with him now control half of the chamber, reports Reuters.
« Lula seems to ignore the necessary search for new engines of growth because the state cannot grow any further, » she said.
A Datafolha poll published last Wednesday showed that 49% of respondents said they would vote for Lula and 45% would go for Bolsonaro, who gained a percentage point thanks to a poll carried out by the same institute a week ago. .
But Bolsonaro fared better than expected in the Oct. 2 first-round vote, robbing Lula of the outright majority the polls had predicted. The incumbent’s outperformance in first-round polls suggests broader support for Bolsonaro’s brand of populist conservatism, and analysts expect the difference in Sunday’s vote to be much closer than expected.
There could be a number of other surprises. Fears of violence have haunted this election, with several violent and sometimes deadly clashes between Bolsonaro and Lula supporters recorded in recent months. From the beginning of this year until the first round of voting, the American non-profit organization Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recorded « 36 cases of political violence involving party representatives and supporters across the country”, which suggests “even more tensions and polarization than those recorded during previous general elections.
Critics also fear Bolsonaro has laid the groundwork to run for office. Despite insisting he will respect the results if they are « clean and transparent », Bolsonaro has repeatedly claimed that Brazil’s electronic voting system is likely to be fraudulent – a totally unfounded allegation that drew comparisons to the false election claims of former US President Donald Trump. . There has been no trace of fraud in Brazil’s electronic ballots since they began in 1996, and experts fear the rhetoric could lead to outbreaks of violence if Lula wins.
« In this consecutive election, the confidence we have in the strength of Brazil’s democratic institutions is going to be called into question, » Santos said.