November 30, 2022

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Lula defeats Bolsonaro to become Brazil's president again

Lula defeats Bolsonaro to become Brazil’s president again

Candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party casts his vote in the Brazilian elections on October 30, 2022 in São Bernardo do Campo. The Brazilians cast their votes again after neither Lula nor President Jair Bolsonaro had enough support to win in the first round.

Alexander Schneider | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva did it again: Twenty years after winning his first Brazilian presidency, leftist incumbent Jair Bolsonaro defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro Sunday in a narrow election that marked a turnaround in the country after four years of far-right politics.

With more than 99% of the vote recorded in the run-off, da Silva received 50.9% and Bolsonaro 49.1%, and the election authority said da Silva’s victory was mathematically certain.

It’s a stunning reflection on da Silva, 77, whose imprisonment in 2018 over a corruption scandal sidelined him from the 2018 elections that brought Bolsonaro, an advocate of conservative social values, to power.

“The only winner today is the Brazilian people,” da Silva said in a speech at a hotel in central Sao Paulo. “This is not a victory for me, the Labor Party, nor the parties that supported me in the campaign. It is a victory for a democratic movement that was formed above political parties, personal interests and ideologies until democracy emerged victorious.”

da Silva promises to rule outside the left-wing Workers’ Party. He wants to bring in the centrists and even some of the right-leaning who voted for him for the first time, and take back the country’s more prosperous past. However, he faces headwinds in a politically polarized society where economic growth is slowing and inflation is rising.

His victory marks the first time since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985 that the current president has failed to win re-election. Highly polarized elections in Latin America’s largest economy have extended the recent wave of leftist victories in the region, including in Chile, Colombia and Argentina.

While Lula was speaking to his supporters – promising to “govern a country in a very difficult situation” – Bolsonaro has yet to concede the election.

It was the country’s closest election in more than three decades. Just over two million votes separate the two candidates with 99.5% of the votes counted. The previous closest race, in 2014, was won by a margin of 3.46 million votes.

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Da Silva is scheduled to be inaugurated on January 1. The last time he served as president was from 2003-2010.

Thomas Truman, an independent political analyst, compared the results to Biden’s victory in 2020, saying that da Silva inherits a deeply divided nation.

“The big challenge for Lula will be to calm the situation in the country,” he said. “People are not only polarized in political matters, but also have different values, identity and opinions. What’s more, they don’t care about the other side’s values, identities and opinions.”

Congratulations to Lula – and Brazil – began pouring in from around the world on Sunday night, including from US President Joe Biden, who highlighted the country’s “free, fair and credible elections.” The European Union also congratulated da Silva in a statement, praising the electoral authority for its effectiveness and transparency throughout the campaign.

Bolsonaro was the leader during the first half of the count, and as soon as da Silva overtook him, cars on the streets of downtown São Paulo started to sound their horns. People on the streets of Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema district were heard chanting, “He turned around!”

Da Silva’s headquarters erupted at the downtown São Paulo hotel as soon as the final result was announced, underscoring the tension that was a hallmark of this race.

“Four years waiting for it,” said Gabriela Soto, one of the few supporters who was allowed in because of the tight security.

Outside Bolsonaro’s home in Rio de Janeiro, ground zero for his support base, a woman in a truck prayed over a megaphone, then sang enthusiastically, trying to generate some energy. But fans, who were dressed in the green and yellow of the flag, hardly responded. Many woke up when the national anthem was played, singing loudly with their hands above their hearts.

Most pre-election polls have given da Silva, better known globally as Lula, a lead, although political analysts agreed the race has become increasingly tough in recent weeks.

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For several months, da Silva seemed to be on his way to an easy victory as he ignited nostalgia for his presidency, when Brazil’s economy was booming and luxury helped tens of millions join the middle class.

But while da Silva led the October 2 first round election with 48% of the vote, Bolsonaro came in a solid second with 43%, showing that opinion polls have drastically reduced his popularity. Many Brazilians support Bolsonaro’s defense of conservative social values, and he bolstered support in an election year with massive government spending.

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Bolsonaro’s administration has been marked by incendiary rhetoric, his test of democratic institutions, and his widespread criticism of the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in 15 years. But he has built a dedicated base by championing conservative values ​​and presenting himself as a protector against left-wing policies that he says infringe personal liberties and lead to economic disruption.

da Silva is credited with building a comprehensive social welfare program during his 2003-2010 term that helped lift tens of millions into the middle class as well as drive an economic boom. The man known globally as Lula left office with an approval rating of over 80%; Then US President Barack Obama called him “the most popular politician on earth”.

But he is also remembered for his administration’s involvement in widespread corruption exposed by a sprawling investigation. Da Silva’s arrest in 2018 put him out of the race that year against Bolsonaro, a fringe lawmaker at the time who was a huge fan of former US President Donald Trump.

da Silva was imprisoned for 580 days for corruption and money laundering. His convictions were subsequently overturned by Brazil’s Supreme Court, which ruled that the presiding judge was biased and colluded with prosecutors. This enabled da Silva to run for the country’s highest office for the sixth time.

Da Silva pledged to increase spending on the poor, restore relations with foreign governments and take bold action to eradicate illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest.

He has not presented specific plans on how to achieve these goals, and he faces many challenges. The president-elect will face strong opposition from conservative lawmakers who are likely to take their cues from Bolsonaro.

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Carlos Melo, a professor of political science at Inspire University in São Paulo, compared the likely political climate to the one experienced by former President Dilma Rousseff, da Silva’s hand-picked successor after his second term.

“Lula’s victory means that Brazil is trying to overcome years of turmoil since President Dilma Rousseff was re-elected in 2014. Those elections never ended; the opposition requested a recount, ruled under pressure and was impeached two years later,” Milo said. “The split became massive and then it made Bolsonaro.”

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Unemployment has fallen this year to its lowest level since 2015, and although overall inflation has slowed during the campaign, food prices are rising at a double-digit rate. Bolsonaro’s welfare payments helped many Brazilians make ends meet, but da Silva was presenting himself as the candidate most willing to continue providing assistance and raising the minimum wage.

Da Silva has also pledged to stop illegal deforestation in the Amazon, once again with prominent ecologist Marina Silva on his side, after years of public wrangling when she was environment minister. The president-elect has already pledged to create a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil, to be run by an indigenous person.

In April, he appointed centre-right Geraldo Alckmin, his former rival, to be his deputy. It was another key part of trying to create a broad pro-democracy front not only to bring down Bolsonaro, but to facilitate governance. The reformed da Silva also had the support of Senator Simon Tibet, a moderate who finished third in the first round of the election.

“If Lula can talk to voters who didn’t vote for him, which Bolsonaro never tried, and seeks negotiated solutions to the economic, social and political crisis we are going through, and the relationships with other countries that we have lost, he can reconnect with Brazil to a time when people can disagree.” With some things still getting done,” Milo said.