Brazil faced its most controversial presidential election yet as far-right populist candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, was defeated by Luiz Inacio da Silva. Luiz, who is commonly known as Lula, took 50.9% of the vote compared to Bolsonaro’s 49.1%. The victory was celebrated by many across the country who feared another term for the far-right reactionary populist.
Lula had formed a coalition with right-wing politician Geraldo Alckmin to prove capitalism was in “safe hands” and whilst this may have helped with his victory it is thought that hatred of Bolsonaro was more significant. The campaign brought together two political forces that had been on opposing sides since the 2000s: Lula’s Worker’s Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores) and political members of the centrist Social Democratic Party.
It was an amazing comeback from Lula, who was unable to run in the 2018 presidential election due to accusations of corruption and money laundering which led to him being jailed for 580 days. The convictions were later annulled as it was ruled that the presiding judge was biased and had been colluding with prosecutors, but the issue of corruption is still present in the country. Before this Lula had been president for two terms, having been first elected in 2003. In his previous terms, he managed to introduce social reforms and provided financial aid for some of the poorest members of Brazilian society. In the recent election, he campaigned on eradicating illegal logging and promoting social welfare programs.
Conversely, Bolsonaro’s campaign was one built on a platform supporting privatisation and deregulation. There was also mention of further environmental funding cuts. Bolsonaro’s previous presidential term saw him receiving great criticism for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the greatest levels of deforestation the Amazon Rainforest had seen in 15 years.
Although Lula saw success in his social reforms in previous terms, there is concern over whether that same level of political victories will be seen this time around. Bolsonaro’s supporters still control the most populated state in Brazil, Sao Paulo, and in the lower house of congress, Bolsonaro’s right-wing block is the largest, whilst Lula has a block of only 25%. Additionally, five of Bolsonaro’s former ministers have won positions in the Senate. Lula will face a formidable level of opposition indeed.
Political opposition is not the only challenge that Lula will face. Brazil is facing its own recession, as well as a global one, an inflationary crisis and higher interest rates. According to Statista, the unemployment rate is at its highest running at 14.4% and inflation is currently 7.17%. This economic downturn has raised the question of whether the coalition can retain its unity. It is possible fissures will appear when difficult choices about the economy have to be made. Lula might be able to reduce the destruction of the Amazon rainforest but will not be able to implement social policies, as previously done, due to an unstable coalition government.
Cover Photo Sourced From Shropshire Star