On Sunday 30 October 2022, after an arduous election campaign, leftist candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, more commonly known as Lula, narrowly won the Brazilian presidential elections beating incumbent president Jair Messias Bolsonaro.
Lula beats Bolsonaro
In the first voting round, held on Sunday 2 October, neither Lula’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (The Workers’ Party) nor Bolsonaro’s Partido Liberal (Liberal Party) managed to secure a majority vote. Consequently, a second run-off election date was set for Sunday 30 October where the two candidates went head-to-head.
Winning by a tight margin, Lula secured 50.9% of votes while Bolsonaro surprised many by racking up an astonishing 49.1% of public support. Thousands of Lula supporters gathered on São Paulo’s stretching Avenida Paulista to celebrate the news, while others took to social media making the famous ‘L’ hand signal in support of their new president.
In the two days after his defeat, Bolsonaro remained eerily silent. His supporters, on the other hand, blockaded over 300 roads, disrupting flights and interstate travel. Many believed that his silence could be building up to something more ominous, with Bolivia’s ex-president Evo Morales expressing concerns over a possible coup d’état. On Tuesday 1 November Bolsonaro finally broke his silence in an official statement where he neither confirmed nor denied his defeat, commenting that “peaceful protests are always welcome, but our methods cannot be those of the left”.
Lula’s route back to the presidency
His successor, Lula, a trade unionist and former metalworker from the north-eastern region of Brazil, is no stranger to the Brazilian electoral process. He ran for president in 2002, defeating Brazilian Social Democracy Party candidate José Serra, and was re-elected in 2006. During his two presidential terms, from 2003 to 2010, Lula implemented numerous successful social programs such as his flagship policies Fome Zero (zero hunger) and Bolsa Familia (family allowance).
His accomplishments as president, however, were cast into the shadows by a series of corruption scandals. The accusations began in 2014, with Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) – a national anti-corruption inquiry. Lula was one of numerous politicians to be indicted and jailed, others included former presidents Fernando Collor de Mello and Michel Temer.
While Operation Car Wash was initially praised for its efforts to quash corruption and impunity, enthusiasm waned when Lula was sentenced to jail in 2016, thereby removing him as the forerunner in the 2018 national election. With Lula behind bars, the Partido Liberal’s candidate Bolsonaro had a clear path to victory.
It wasn’t until 2019, when private messages of the inquiry’s judge, Sérgio Moro, were leaked to The Intercept Brasil, that inquiry corruption suspicions were confirmed, and Lula was released from prison. Once hailed as an anti-corruption hero, Judge Moro was exposed as the puppet master behind Lula’s defamation and subsequent jailing. Private messages revealed that Moro had withheld information, planned press attacks against Lula and colluded with the prosecution to ensure his conviction.
Hope for Brazil
Now, after four years of Bolsonaro’s tenebrous extreme right-wing rule, it seems that hope might be on the horizon for many Brazilians. Vladmir Souza, a teacher from São Paulo, said:
“I consider myself politically more on the far-left, a communist, for me Lula is more centre-left, he’s very moderate, but even though he’s not the ideal president for me, he’s the closest thing we have to a democratic candidate in Brazil. Bolsonaro made things far worse especially with the pandemic, destroying the Amazon rainforest and his mistreatment of minorities.
“He changed the way Brazilians see themselves and how they understand one another, I hope Lula will change that and that we can re-establish the dialogue that has been lost these past six years.”
Julia Zottini, a law graduate and business owner from São Paulo also hopes for more dialogue: “I hope the polarity created by Bolsonaro’s hate speech decreases so that people can actually debate different political views, rather than just spreading fake news and hating those that don’t share the same opinion”. When asked whether Lula will make a difference, Julia responded, “it will definitely be challenging to make a real difference during the first year, the Congress will mainly be made up of politicians from Bolsonaro’s party and the budget for public sectors in 2023 has already been announced”.
A mixed bag
But not everyone is elated by Lula’s victory. Tiago Sousa, an IT consultant from the state of Minas Gerais, said “I don’t support Bolsonaro or Lula”. He explained, “we are divided in two sides, either you’re extreme right or extreme left, I would like a third, less polarised option”.
Tiago is also one of many who have not forgotten the previous misdoings of The Workers’ Party: “Lula is very important for the left movement in Latin America, but I don’t have hope for a better situation because in the last 14 years The Workers’ Party have been involved in a lot of scandals.”
Overall, Lula’s support seems to consist of a mixed bag of left-leaning voters, but the one thing they all share is their deep sense of realism for the future of Brazil and for their future president. They have been down this path before and are aware that Lula is by no means their saviour, but he could well be their best chance at healing a post-Bolsonaro Brazil.