For the third time, leftist Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva has won Brazil’s presidential election. This time, he took 50.9% of the votes against 49.1% of his contender, the far-right Jair Bolsonaro. A minimal margin that denotes the polarization that the country is going through and that will be one of the main challenges of the former trade unionist. Added to the divided Brazil are socioeconomic problems such as hunger and unemployment.
A new milestone has been written in the political history of Brazil. Leftist Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva won the presidential election for the third time. A narrow margin of less than a percentage point led him to beat his opponent, the current far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
“I consider this moment almost like a resurrection. They tried to destroy me and I am here alive,” cried the former trade unionist after hearing the results.
It was his seventh political campaign for the Presidency. One that was marked by strong accusations between the two candidates and also by the false news that spread throughout the country.
Despite the ferocity of his opponents’ attacks, ‘Lula’ was optimistic and vital. But at 77 years old, her arrival at the Planalto Palace will be extremely different from that first time in 2002.
Both he and Brazil have changed. ‘Lula’ reappears after having even been in prison for more than five hundred days, after being accused of corruption and later acquitted. In addition, he is no longer the novelty, but a familiar face and an exciting figure for a part of the country, which wants to return to an era that many consider golden.
In front of him, an extremely polarized nation, which is waking up from a pandemic and which lived a term under the far-right ideology that has permeated a good part of the population.
“I will govern for everyone, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, whether they are from the right or the left,” said the now president-elect.
As of January 1, 2023, I will rule for 215 thousand Brazilians, and not just for those who vote for me. There are no two Brasis. We are a single country, a single people, a great nation.
– Lula 13 (@LulaOficial) October 31, 2022
That task, that of uniting Brazil, is one of his long list of challenges that he will have to face in his four years in office that will begin on January 1, 2023.
The maximum polarization, one of the main challenges of ‘Lula’
Just over two million votes from an electorate of more than 156 million people made the difference between the two candidates. A very short difference that no survey was able to foresee, although the victory of the leftist was in the forecasts of all the demographic companies.
Beyond the elections, the divisions are felt in Brazilian society. ‘Lula’ will have an enormous challenge to fulfill one of his first promises, that of governing for all Brazilians. Even for his detractors.
To do this, many analysts say that their negotiation skills will play a leading role.
In dialogue with France 24, the Brazilian journalist and analyst, Sérgio Dallafollo, assures that “I think that before anything else, the first thing you are going to have to do is talk with all the political sectors and, above all, have a lot of patience and negotiation, which It’s not going to be very easy.”
Along the same lines, Luciana Santana, a political scientist at UFAL and a researcher at the Observatório das Eleições INCT, believes that she should make use of her experience to unite divergent political sectors.
“’Lula’ is a politician with a lot of experience and will have the necessary ability to seek reconciliation in the country. He will seek alliances with elected governors and parliamentarians”, Santana points out.
The divisions and cracks in Brazilian society are also expressed in Congress. There, ‘Lula’ will also have great difficulty as he is controlled by important conservative forces, which retain the absolute majority.
“It is a fairly right-wing Congress, Bolsonaro managed to keep 6.5% of the House of Representatives, which belongs to the Liberal Party. We are talking about a significant percentage for one party, without counting the other parties. The Senate is almost more than half of the senators are Bolsonaristas,” says Simone Pitta, a lawyer at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.
Much of his governability and the reformist agenda he has promised will depend on his political ingenuity.
A very different Brazil from twenty years ago
But polarization is not the only aspect in which Brazil has changed in the last 20 years since the first time that ‘Lula’ came to power. The leftist receives a country with considerable social and economic challenges.
“In addition to being a more divided country, it is a country that is suffering from a very strong economic and social crisis,” says Santana.
One of the most pressing challenges: hunger. As Dallafollo points out, after ‘Lula’s’ two terms in office, Brazil left the “world hunger map”, now, he assures, “it has returned”.
According to official data, 33 million households are hungry in the Brazilian territory, that is, 15% of its population.
Next to hunger are unemployment rates. Some that grew sharply during the Covid-19 health emergency. Currently, according to the National Statistics Agency, 9.5 million people are unemployed.
For her part, Marcia Ribeiro Dias, a political scientist and professor at Unirio, assures that one of the president’s most complex tasks will be to rebuild the Brazilian social fabric, which is notably weakened.
In parallel, Brazil is going through a complex economic situation, with rising inflation (6.85% per year), in part exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. This, without a doubt, is affecting the pockets of citizens.
The weakened credibility of the Workers’ Party
The accusations of corruption not only fell on ‘Lula’, but also on a large part of his party, the PT. These overshadowed the arrival of many of his representatives to Congress and also to stay with multiple governorships that remained in Bolsonarist hands.
A rejection that was present during the political campaign. For example, a survey released by the Paraná Institute showed that 45.7% of the population “would never vote” for the PT in a presidential election.
Now, however, said party will be the ruling party and it will surely be difficult for it to rebuild the credibility it had in the leftist’s first term.
Despite the fact that many of these accusations of corruption were dismissed, Dallafollo assures that “his condition as ‘presumed’ in these corruption cases continued as a theme in the political campaign of his opponents. And it will be a theme that will continue in Brazilian society.”
Other analysts point out that this speech could be used by his opponents.
Pitta assures that the appointment of politicians other than the PT in ministries such as Finance or Agriculture will be important, to forge alliances with more moderate formations.
The consolidation of the turn to the left in Latin America
From January 1, 2023, the five main economies of Latin America will be governed by the left. An unprecedented event. It is to be expected that relations with the region will be a priority for the president-elect, as they were during his first terms, and breaking the tendency of Bolsonaro, who isolated the nation for the last four years.
This is how Alessandra Maia Terra de Faria, doctor in Social Sciences from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, points out for France 24: “Brazil is very important as a leader in the region, ‘Lula’ was the one who in the past managed to establish Mercosur and talking to the neighbors, and also talking to Europe, Asia and the United States, and all the others… Bolsonaro was isolated from the whole world.”
A similar perspective is shared by Dallafollo, who assures that ‘Lula’ will try to “approach the Latin American countries and then the other countries, especially the countries below the equator. What was called the South-South policy”.
For his part, Ribeiro points to Brazil’s strategic position, one that under the mandate of ‘Lula’ could “help position Brazil as a leader” in this shift to the left in the region.
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