Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, this Sunday night in São Paulo Tuane Fernandes (Bloomberg)
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has won the first ballot in Brazil. The final count gave him 48%, nearly 57 million votes. He was two points away from the majority and will face Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for re-election, in a second round on October 30. The president is five points behind Lula da Silva, in a much more advantageous position than the 10-point disadvantage the polls gave him. Given the polarization that marked the first round, an intense campaign is about to begin. The left is stroking power in Latin America’s largest democracy, a comeback that poses an enormous political challenge.
The country has been experiencing a dangerous authoritarian drift for four years. Bolsonaro’s disastrous management of the pandemic resulted in 660,000 deaths, a continental record. The President’s attacks on the electronic voting system, with the resulting early allegations of fraud, have damaged the credibility of the institutions. The increasing presence of the military in key government positions and the role of custodian of election results, which the president ceded to the army, even fueled rumors of a coup d’état. Internationally, Brazil has isolated itself from its neighbors by direct attacks on presidents of other countries, such as Colombian Gustavo Petro, Chilean Gabriel Boric and Argentinian Alberto Fernández, whom it has rudely insulted.
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Lula da Silva now has a tough job ahead of her. There is still a month to go before the second round, a long road on which he must open himself to political dialogue with the forces of the center who did not support him. Of course you turned the voters of Ciro Gomes, his former minister, more to the left than to the right. And the 20% of the voting population who have chosen to stay at home. On the eve of the election, the Labor Party candidate said he was ready “to talk to everyone for the good of Brazil.” He will also have to deal with a rival who is ready for anything. If the President persists in his strategy of destroying institutions, he will shake the entire fabric of Brazilian democracy. It’s up to Lula da Silva to manage these tensions and prevent his rival from questioning the veracity of the result.
Lula has been President twice. It has government teams trained in the exercise of power and has managed severe crises. He has promised he will not be moved by resentment, allaying fears that he will seek political revenge for the 20 months he spent in prison for corruption in the so-called Lava Jato operation. “We will restore peace and democracy,” he said at the vote. Brazilians deserve a return to that promised peace, humiliated by four years of official disregard for institutions.
In a world plunged into uncertainty as a result of the war in Ukraine, a return of Brazil, a country of continental dimensions, to the international scene is both urgent and necessary. Its economy is among the 15 largest in the world, it is one of the main food producers and its energy reserves are enormous. The South American giant has all the makings to become a clear regional player and a significant global player. Lula da Silva has shown an attachment to the good manners of diplomacy in the past, and it is hoped he is now working in the same direction. The world needs a democratic and prosperous Brazil.