By Gusatvo A. Maranges – Nov 3, 2022
The elections in Brazil were, without doubt, among the most important and anticipated events of the year in Latin America. The largest economy in the region’s political superstructure is a core element in the context of the new progressive wave across Latin America. Said wave will depend largely on Brazil’s political and economic trajectory. Domestically, it was vital, as Brazil barely survived 6 years of right-wing governance, combined with the pandemic, which plunged millions of Brazilians into poverty.
The winning candidate was, fortunately, the Workers’ Party (PT) representative Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who won by a narrow margin of 2 million votes, or 0.8% of the vote. Regardless of how narrow, the victory was still resounding.
Jair Bolsonaro, the ultra-right-wing politician, had to rely on backing from the government machinery. Bolsonaro counted on the oligarchy and the Brazilian upper middle class’ support, meaning economic and influential power would be able to define any electoral process.
The main component of Lula’s victory was his collective leadership strategy and alliances with the most diverse political forces, ranging from the center-right to the most progressive and left-wing organizations in the country. However, once the elections are won, this type of coalition may turn into another battleground. Bolsonaro will be out of power in two months, differences could emerge, which may prove to hinder Lula’s government and leave him exposed to right-wing forces. Those whose main objective is to destroy Lula politically. Therefore, consistent work and a conscientious strategy will be needed to avoid such a dilemma.
The election’s results
An interesting fact about the election result is that young adults voted for Lula. This is peculiar since ultra-right politicians are often popular in this sector. However, in Brazil, it seems to be different.
Born before Lula’s first term, today’s young adults grew up firsthand with the improvements PT spearheaded over a 13 year administration. These same people have witnessed the disastrous mismanagement of Bolsonaro and are willing to recover what they consider normal living standards. At the same time, Bolsonaro’s neoliberal approach to social and economic issues are abhorrent when contrasted with Lula’s fair and modern treatment of human rights like LGTBQ+, women and black people’s rights, as well as environmental policies.
The elections showed a country divided economically and politically. It is no coincidence that Bolsonaro won in the richest Amazonian states, those with the highest Human Development Index (HDI) and the lowest illiteracy rates. Bolsonaro’s willingness to cut down millions of hectares of forests, ignoring the environmental consequences, earned him the logging and cattle sector’s support. Many of these businessmen not only funded Bolsonaro but campaigned for him by threatening their workers with consequences. They claimed Lula’s government would shut down their businesses.
Bolsonaro clearly won in the two states with the largest urban population, while Lula won in those with the largest rural population. This voter divide shows the abysmal chasm that exists between Brazil’s countryside and the cities. This was among the problems that both Lula and his PT successor, Dilma Rousseff, tried to alleviate by implementing social policies.
Comparing the votes by state, Lula won in 13 of the 23 states. Those with less population, low incomes, and hit hardest by COVID-19 due to their health systems’ weakness and governmental neglect.
Power distribution in state-level elections, however, was different, although balanced. The PT won only 4 out of the 23 governorships, with another 3 from the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), whose presidential candidate was Simone Tebet, one from the Solidaridade Party, and 3 from the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). The rest of the governorships are in Bolsonaro’s and his collaborators’ hands. The relationship between forces in the Senate and the House of Representatives is equally adverse for Brazilian progressives, further complicating government management.
The overseas vote also reveals the trans-nationalization of the right-wing agenda in the region. Although Lula won the overseas vote in general, in such cases as the United States, Bolsonaro won overwhelmingly. Something similar happened in Latin America, save for Argentina, Colombia, Cuba and Uruguay. Lula won all across Europe, where Brazilians are less exposed to the media might of the Latin America’s right-wing and the frenetic smear campaigns organized against Lula.
Lula is aware of the current political and social situation, hence his conciliatory stance. During his victory speech, Lula said he would work for all Brazilians regardless of whether they voted for him or not. Uniting the country is one of his priorities and, at the same time, his biggest challenge, given the right-wing parties’ political strength and capacity to mobilize their supporters.
Regarding domestic policy, Lula had a strong environmental and social justice agenda. These remain two neuralgic topics, ever since they were totally neglected by the previous administration. However, moving forward with concrete proposals may be complicated due to the opposition of agribusiness and economic elites, always reluctant to improve the country’s wealth distribution.
On the other hand, Congress’ composition will be Damocles’ Sword on Lula’s neck. The lawfare impeachment of Dilma is still fresh in many lawmen’s minds. Moreover, the polarization, or the division of political forces and the constant alliance changes in Brazil, are elements that weaken democracy and pave the way for the lawfare to act.
The response of the international community
Lula’s victory was a cause for joy not only for Brazil, where millions celebrated in the streets, but for the region in general. Dozens of presidents and prime ministers immediately congratulated Lula, most of them regional leaders such as Colombia’s Gustavo Petro, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel, and Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez. Thanks to this victory, integration mechanisms such as the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) and the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) will get momentum. Brazil played a leading role in both projects, and the arrival of right-wing presidents like Bolsonaro marked the stagnation of both. Today, the obstacles are fewer, the opportunities to work together and move forward. Especially now that many countries in the region are more inclined to challenge neoliberalism.
The President of the United States did not miss a chance to make public his relief with Lula’s victory. His congratulations were among the first. Biden’s reaction was influenced by the acute discrepancies he had with Bolsonaro, a faithful follower of former President Donald Trump. This contradiction led to a rift between the two capitalist powers, something Biden is eager to revise given Brazil’s diplomatic and geopolitical importance in multilateral forums and organizations.
While the whole world was celebrating, Bolsonaro went to sleep and took over 24 hours to make a statement. In his first words after the elections, contrary to tradition, he refused to acknowledge the results or congratulate Lula. He rather questioned the results, which was interpreted by his supporters as a call to maintain federal highways blocked. Hours later, however, when chaos had taken over the highways, Bolsonaro made a call to withdraw the blockades, but to maintain the protests.
Bolsonaro intends to keep Brazilian democracy in check, as Trump did in the United States. Once again, the right-wing’s modus operandi remains the same: not recognizing the election results, betting on social disorder as well as instability to hinder the new government’s work. Many are calling for the military to, fulfill their fantasies, and, step in.
In light of this, the presidential transition will be very complicated. Bolsonaro’s uncooperative attitude and the perennial threat of a coup d’état ever lingering overhead.
Gustavo A. Maranges
Gustavo A. Maranges#molongui-disabled-linkMarch 25, 2023
Gustavo A. Maranges#molongui-disabled-link
Gustavo A. Maranges#molongui-disabled-linkFebruary 18, 2023
Gustavo A. Maranges#molongui-disabled-linkDecember 9, 2022