The leftist, former President, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, known simply as ‘Lula’, has won his third presidential election in Brazil, this time against the controversial, far-right Jair Messias Bolsonaro. Lula’s victory – albeit narrow – is widely regarded as a win for social democracy and the environment.
Considered by Brazilians and the international media as one of the most important elections in Brazil’s history, the 2022 presidential election was different from those Brazil has seen before. Bolsonaro’s delayed and disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic put Brazil in global headlines for one of the highest death tolls in the world and led to criminal investigations of the president.
Bolsonaro’s term has also seen the accelerated depletion of the Amazon rainforest. Despite his economic justification for deforestation, Bolsonaro’s reign has resulted in the return of hunger to Brazil, where 15.5% of the population (33.1 million people) faces serious food insecurity. Specialists estimate that Brazil has regressed 30 years regarding the issue. As a result, Bolsonaro found it difficult to convince Brazilian people to vote for his reelection.
He is the first sitting president to run for reelection and lose.
Bolsonaro is alleged to have resorted to “fake news” to reduce his 50% rejection rate. His discussion points tended to focus on highly emotive themes related to religion, abortion, and the fear of a communist government in Brazil to persuade a country that many view as becoming more conservative throughout his reign. The past five years have seen some of the population close its eyes to homophobic, sexist and xenophobic attacks made by Bolsonaro and his supporters.
Lula’s campaign was not without controversy. Despite being Brazil’s first working-class president and his past government lifting 20 million people out of poverty and triggering an economic boom from 2002 to 2012, he faced a 46% rejection rate in the last poll before the elections. Lula’s Worker’s Party remains marred by devastating corruption allegations.
Operation Car Wash, commanded by Judge Sergio Moro, resulted in a prison sentence of nine years and six months for Lula on April 7, 2018 and barred him from running for reelection. However, not long after, in 2019, Intercept magazine found papers, and audio and text messages showing that Moro had collaborated with prosecutors, breaking the rules of due process. The Supreme Court ultimately decided that Moro was incapable and impartial in judging the case, quashing all charges against Lula.
Lula returns to power with the most number of votes that a president has ever received, but a huge minority of the population (49.1%) favoured Bolsonaro. He will also face a congress and parliament whose majority is formed by right-wing and far-right politicians.
That said, the battle for a more progressive country is far from over. Lula is known for his ability to communicate well with other politicians and has convinced congress and parliament in the past to pass progressive laws, not only for the general population but also for the LGBTQ+ community. Whereas Bolsonaro once said “he wouldn’t be able to love a gay son […] he would prefer to die in an accident”, Lula’s Worker’s Party (PT) was responsible for a number of progressive acts while in government.
Lula and his team held Brazil’s first National Conference on Public Policies and LGBT Human Rights, prepared Brazil’s first Report on Homophobic Violence, met with LGBTQ+ activists to listen to their demands for social programs to combat homophobia and provided full, free-of-cost support to Trans people while they’re transitioning.
In his victory speech as President-elect, Lula reaffirmed his commitment to fighting against prejudice: “The majority of Brazilians made it very clear that they want more and no less respect among all Brazilians […]. Starting January 1, 2023, I will govern for 215 million Brazilians and not only for those who voted for me. There are not two Brazils. We’re a single country, a single people and a great nation”.
— Lula 13 (@LulaOficial) October 30, 2022
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