Former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is the favorite in the Brazilian election in a year, but surprises cannot be ruled out – not even a dramatic US-style final on charges of a rigged result.
The incumbent right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, whose approval rating has plummeted in recent months, would, according to a recent survey by the Instituto Datafolha. received 26 percent of the vote in the first ballot on October 2, 2022, compared with 44 percent for Lula.
What factors will play a role in the next presidential election in the country with the largest economy in Latin America?
– Bolsonaro, down and out? –
The 66-year-old Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for his performance, largely due to the Covid pandemic that has claimed nearly 600,000 lives in Brazil and the economic decline that comes with double-digit inflation that is undermining people’s purchasing power.
His approval rating has dropped to 22 percent, the lowest since he took office in 2019. He also stares down a number of impeachment motions and multiple judicial investigations, including for allegedly looking the other way in a vaccine-sourcing corruption scandal.
But this former army captain, darling of Brazil’s most conservative sectors like agribusiness, isn’t done yet, says Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
“His time to reverse this negative outlook is getting shorter and shorter,” said Stuenkel. But “whoever is in power has a number of strategic advantages, most notably the ability to increase government spending.”
– Lula lies deep –
Although he has not officially announced his candidacy, 75-year-old Lula has been the favorite since courts dropped his convictions for corruption and money laundering.
But the former president, who could bring the Labor Party back to power after his two terms in office (2003-2010) and that of Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016), is holding back.
The story goes on
“Lula is aware that he cannot expose himself to a lot because he would be severely attacked,” said political scientist Andre Cesar of the consultancy Hold.
“Antipetismo is a strong party,” he said, using a term to refer to the strong resentment of the Labor Party and covering a number of key conservative sectors including business.
Stuenkel said Lula was preparing a conciliatory strategy similar to that of US President Joe Biden, “who has tried to present himself as a centrist who brings together a diversity of Democrats and is not just the leader of the left” against Donald Trump in the 2020 election campaign .
– Realistic third option? –
At the same time, several smaller candidates, such as the governor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, are trying to lead a so-called “third way” that brings together the opponents of Lula and Bolsonaro. However, a street rally on September 12th that played up this idea was nonsense.
“The ‘none of them’ occupy a huge ideological space that runs from left to right,” said Stuenkel, so “it’s not realistic” to expect them to agree on a candidate.
But Cesar, the agent, said a third candidate could emerge if Bolsonaro’s unpopularity or legal issues put him out of the running, a prospect that currently seems unlikely.
And neither Bolsonaro nor Lula want a third candidate. Lula, a former union leader, allows the president to focus on the Brazilian left, which he associates with corruption and communism, as the country’s enemy.
It is safer for Lula to target Bolsonaro and its demise than to face a small candidate supported by pro-Bolsonaro voters and people who hate the Labor Party, said Michael Freitas of the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
– Coup? Trump-style ending? –
In his struggles with the courts, Bolsonaro went so far as to suggest the possibility of a coup. And on September 7th he called protest marches during which his most ardent supporters openly chanted against democracy.
Despite ruling out a coup, many analysts fear that if Bolsonaro loses the presidential election, he will reject the election result.
“Bolsonaro is a politician who often imitates Trump,” said Freitas, recalling that the Brazilian head of state had already warned of electoral fraud by questioning the reliability of electronic voting, which has been used in the country since 1996, without any evidence posed.
Stuenkel said Bolsonaro could try to encourage violence, as Trump did before the U.S. Capitol uprising on Jan.
“The big difference is that the army and police are much less committed to democracy in Brazil,” said Stuenkel.
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