Election in Brazil: A battle of the titans between Bolsonaro and Lula
RIO DE JANEIRO: Only two candidates, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stand a chance of winning Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil. According to pollster Datafolha, eight out of ten Brazilians will support one of these political heavyweights. As a result, there is little room for challengers, and instead of offering novel ideas and comprehensive plans, the two front-runners have mainly focused on their prior accomplishments and fought among themselves.
The Federal University of Pernambuco political science professor Nara Pavao said, “Both candidates are very well known, and the vote is very crystallized,” adding that the majority of voters had already made up their minds long ago.
Sunday’s election could signal the return of the world’s fourth-largest democracy to a leftist government after four years of far-right politics led by a president criticized for challenging democratic institutions, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that killed nearly 700,000 people, and an economic recovery that has yet to be felt by the poor.
According to polls, da Silva has a sizable lead and may even be able to win in the first round without the need for a runoff.
Even if that doesn’t happen, the vote itself represents an improbable political comeback for 76-year-old former metalworker Lula da Silva, who was imprisoned four years ago as part of a massive corruption investigation that targeted his Workers’ Party and upended Brazilian politics. Da Silva rose from poverty to become president of Brazil.
Da Silva was disqualified from the 2018 election after being found guilty of corruption and money laundering, which gave Bolsonaro, a fringe far-right lawmaker at the time, an easy victory.
However, the Supreme Court overturned da Silva’s convictions a year later amid claims that the prosecutor and judge had fabricated evidence to convict him, allowing him to run for office once more.
In many ways, Sunday’s vote is the race that should have been in 2018. Also, a lot of voters are well aware of that.
One of them is Antonio dos Santos, who supported Bolsonaro in the previous election but will vote for da Silva this time around.
Dos Santos, a 55-year-old hairdresser who lives in the working-class Rio neighborhood of Rocinha, said, “What I’m most upset about is when the pandemic started, (Bolsonaro) seemed to be taking it as a joke.”
He’s not the man I thought he was, women losing their husbands, children dying.
“What matters to me is to see Brazil doing well, everyone working, everyone eating,” he said.
Da Silva has worked to remind supporters from the working class, like dos Santos, that his presidency from 2003 to 2010 was defined by social progress, driven by a sizable social welfare program that helped bring tens of millions into the middle class.
Bolsonaro doesn’t want voters to recall that, repeatedly calling da Silva a “thief” and an “ex-jailbird.”
He ran for office in 2018 as an anti-corruption candidate while defending traditional family values, national pride, and a no-compromise approach to fighting crime. He was a former army captain. His 2018 catchphrase, “Brazil above all, God above all,” is still in use this year.
However, Bolsonaro’s campaign has encountered new challenges this time around, in part because of his COVID-19 policies, which, according to a Senate study, call for criminal prosecution to hold him accountable for Brazil’s 685,000 epidemic fatalities.
The majority of the women have abandoned him. He rejected vaccines and largely ignored their plight as the primary caregivers of children and the elderly while Brazil was being decimated by the virus, shocking many with his apparent lack of compassion during the pandemic.
“Bolsonaro was already rejected by women in 2018, but it got worse,” said Carolina Botelho, a researcher with the Institute of Social and Political Studies at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.
Da Silva still has a 20-point advantage against Bolsonaro in that group, despite the latter’s efforts to win over more female voters by promoting his administration’s substantial social assistance program.
But the hard times continue. The largest country in Latin America experienced inflation and food shortages as did the rest of the world as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
By reducing fuel taxes and backing Congress’ efforts to extend and boost welfare benefits for millions of poor Brazilians, Bolsonaro has lessened the damage.
Given that the latter measure expires in December, Da Silva has criticized it as a temporary solution. He commits to tackling hunger and poverty the way he did during his presidency, using his worldwide famous Zero Hunger plan.
Geraldo Alckmin, a center-right former opponent, was chosen as his running mate as a gesture to financial markets. This choice was more recently strengthened by the support of a former central bank governor who praised the da Silva administration’s sound macroeconomic strategy.
Bolsonaro’s four years in office have also been marred by the Amazon rainforest’s worst deforestation in 15 years.
But no assertion made by Bolsonaro has inspired moderates to support da Silva more than his argument that Brazil’s computerized voting system is vulnerable to fraud.
His assertion, for which he has offered no support, has sparked worries that he would contest the results of the election and try to retain power.
In an interview earlier this month, Bolsonaro said that “something odd has happened within the electoral court” if he fails to win Sunday’s first round.
Even senior electoral officials who are also justices of the Supreme Court have come under fire from Bolsonaro for allegedly conspiring against him. Such remarks reinforce the belief among Bolsonaro’s ardent followers that the election is fixed, which is mirrored in online comments and the rise in political violence in the real world.
Bolsonaro is viewed as a threat to democracy and institutions in addition to political differences, according to Mario Braga, a political analyst at Control Risks. This helps to explain why da Silva has received a plethora of endorsements.
Evangelical Christians, who make up about a third of the population, are one of the few demographics where Bolsonaro is polling ahead. He was propelled to power in 2018 by evangelicals, and he then chose members of their churches for crucial ministries and a Supreme Court nomination.
This time around, Bolsonaro has increased their support by running a campaign that alleges that the country is spiritually sick and that only he can defend the Christian faith. He makes reference to da Silva’s affiliation with the Afro-Brazilian religions of the nation.
According to Bolsonaro and his followers, this year’s polls understate the popularity of the far-right leader.
Maria do Carmo, a supporter of Bolsonaro who will vote for him once more on Sunday, said, “We are conservative. The principles of the right have always been ours: family, church, education, and sexual boundaries.
Does Carmo say, echoing many other Bolsonaro supporters, that she did not believe the election results and the nation’s computerized voting machines?