156 million Brazilians are called upon to go to the polls in Brazil this Sunday. This first round is the culmination of a particularly acrimonious presidential campaign between outgoing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and his left-wing rival Lula, himself a former head of state.
This is the moment of truth in Brazil that must end months of election campaigning. This Sunday, in fact, Brazilians have to decide within the framework of the first round of a presidential election dominated by the personalities of the two main candidates: Jair Bolsonaro, outgoing far-right president, and Lula, who represents the hopes of the left from the center, who died between 2003 and was head of state himself in 2011. At the same time, citizens cast their ballots to appoint their alternates, one-third of the senators and the college of regional governors.
Election conditions, polls, favorite personalities and tensions: BFMTV.com takes stock of the issues of this highly political day.
· Which elected will the Brazilians vote for?
First of all, it is necessary to shed light on the electoral systems of the various elections that will affect 156 million voters this Sunday. The presidential election is a unanimous vote in two rounds. If there are other candidates in the race, the campaign has given pride of place to the two big favorites, Lula and Bolsonaro.
Brazilians are also invited—and somewhat more, since voting is compulsory between the ages of 18 and 70—to elect their 513 federal deputies, as well as 27 of their 81 senators (i.e. a third of the chamber leaders) and the 27 regional governors. These polls could produce conflicting results.
Fernando Haddad is likely to tip the state of Sao Paulo to the left for the first time, while Rio de Janeiro is likely to return to Jair Bolsonaro’s camp. Governors are appointed in two rounds, while the legislature is contested in one round under the proportional system.
The second round of the presidential election is scheduled for October 30th.
· Who is the President’s favorite?
But will there only be a second round? We may doubt that as Lula, who carries the aspirations of a strong coalition of ten formations forming left and center, is ahead of the incumbent in the polls. Despite some fluctuations over the weeks, the former metallurgist-turned-politician has consistently dominated Jair Bolsonaro in opinion polls.
One of the latest, released Thursday, is particularly eloquent. As a result of the Datafolha Institute’s work, it gave Lula a very comfortable lead of 48% of projections versus 34%. However, the polling institute further specified that Lula will be credited with 50%, assuming only valid votes. A threshold that, if crossed this Sunday, would allow him to resume his former presidential chair on the evening of this first round.
Why is the Lula-Bolsonaro duel explosive?
Pablo Marcal, Ciro Gomes, Leonardo Pericles, etc. Admittedly, there is no shortage of candidates in the presidential election, but only two of them come into focus because they are also the only ones who have a real chance of winning. And the confrontation between Lula and Jair Bolsonaro is – in addition to the juxtaposition of two opposing political sides – also the confrontation of two paths, two very different biographies.
Lula was born 76 years ago in the state of Pernambuco, a disadvantaged region in the northeast of the country. Born into a modest family that eventually moved to Sao Paulo, he started out as a metal worker, more precisely a lathe operator. He soon joined the union movement, and if his union struggle anchored him in the landscape of the local left, it also earned him a few jail terms in dictatorship Brazil.
In 1980 he helped found the Workers’ Party, which was to become the instrument of his political rise. Democracy returned, he ran three times for his country’s presidency starting in the late 1980s before winning the drum in 2002 and being invested the following January.
After two terms in office, he gave way to runner-up Dilma Roussef in 2011 before being swept up in a corruption scandal a few years later that saw him convicted and jailed in 2018. However, the verdict is certain, canceled in 2021, the judiciary points out the bias of their judge and recognizes formal defects.
Jair Bolsonaro also got a taste of prison. In fact, he was jailed for 14 days for publicly criticizing the low salaries in the army in 1986. That’s pretty much the only thing he has in common with his rival.
Jair Bolsonaro is the son of a dentist and was born in the state of Sao Paulo. It’s not the factory that calls him, but the army, an institution he has always admired to this day. There he also became an officer and attained the rank of captain. In the early 1990s he embarked on a different career and fought a different struggle: politics. In fact, he was elected MP in Rio de Janeiro in 1990, a seat in which he would be continuously reappointed thereafter.
On the label side, however, he is on the move. It first developed within the Christian Democratic Party and changed color several times. Today he is leader of the Liberal Party. It must be said that he is liberal on an economic level. On the other hand, Jair Bolsonaro has very conservative views on morals.
Elected to the presidency in 2018 on a program that combines promises of an anti-corruption fight with security policies, his record seems in doubt. His hostility to the ecological cause and his handling of the health crisis sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic have been widely criticized by his opposition and many observers.
Finally, his international sympathy goes out in particular to Donald Trump’s United States. He will also be one of the last world leaders to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory and remain silent for a long time while the New York multi-billionaire claims without any evidence that he was the victim of massive electoral fraud.
· Should violence be feared?
This solidarity seems all the less anecdotal as Jair Bolsonaro could have drawn some revenue from it. In fact, Lula said during a news conference on Friday that he feared “trouble” leading up to his inauguration if he won against the far-right man.
And this isn’t a pre-trial in the air, as Jair Bolsonaro, for his part, has raised the possibility of paying the costs of the fraud, again with no evidence to support his statements. During a television interview broadcast on September 19, he warned that if he received “less than 60% of the votes in the first ballot” it was because “something abnormal” had taken place at the Supreme Electoral Court.
I’m not sure one election Sunday is enough to dissipate such electricity.
Robin Verner Journalist BFMTV