Lula, the leader of the Brazilian left, received the support of 48.42 per cent of Brazilians in the first round. The far-right incumbent President Bolsonaro garnered 43.2 per cent. Even though Lula’s result is one of the best electoral results in history of Brasil, the difference between candidates is smaller than expected.
The polls had suggested a much higher lead for Lula. Some suggested that the Workers’ Party candidate had a chance to win in the first round. However, it turned out that Bolsonaro’s ability to mobilise his electorate – representatives of the upper and middle classes – was greater than thought. His voters were not discouraged by expert opinions that Bolsonaro had worked hard to dissolve Brasilian democracy. They were also not impressed by Brazil’s tragic COVID-19 victims record, to which Bolsonaro has directly contributed by mocking the pandemic.
At a rally after the announcement of the preliminary results, Bolsonaro bursted with self-confidence. He announced that the second round would belong to him. As he said, this would happen because people would recognise his achievements of four years in government. – The campaign is ours! – he proclaimed.
Unfortunately, no one can exclude such a scenario. The only factor that can stop it is a really huge mobilization of working class, indigenous and peasant voters.
The huge polarisation of Brazilian society shown by this election clearly coincides with wealth and class divisions. On Bolsonaro’s side is the upper class, the wealthiest citizens, as well as part of the conservative middle class, for whom Bolsonaro is a defender of the family and traditional values. This applies in particular to those middle class representatives who belong to Brazil’s Evangelical Churches, known for preaching extreme conservatism and entrepreneurship cult.
Parts of the middle class have moved away from Bolsonaro, discouraged by his attacks on the Brazilian judiciary or his openly expressed dreams of a military dictatorship. However, Lula’s real electoral base is workers, poor farmers and indigenous peoples.
While focusing on bringing back a real democracy and real people’s power, Lula is trying to win over sections of the middle class or even (big) business. This explains his selection of the running mate: the former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin. Alckmin is a ‘centrist’, a supporter of neo-liberal capitalism, whose presence in the government may even appeal to the Brazilian millionaire-oligarchs who control most of the country’s media. Back in 2006, it was Alckmin who challenged Lula in the presidential elections, and lost.
By this gesture towards the political centre, Lula is apparently suggesting that his rule would not be a dictatorship of the proletariat that the oligarchy and the middle class should be really afraid of. Aware of how Dilma Rousseff was effectively removed from presidency, and remembering well how the oligarchy tried to destroy him with false accusations, he might be now intending to portray himself as a candidate who would guarantee a liberal democracy, unlike the unpredictable Bolsonaro. However, to win security from oligarchical plots, Lula must not attack capitalist principles too much and make the owners of great fortunes feel safe.
Lula mentioned how he was convicted of corruption, sent to prison and blocked from the previous elections in his electoral speech. He sounded more cautious than his rival when he said how great it was to stand in front of enthusiastic supporters in the end, after the Supreme Court anulled the conviction and admitted how prosecutors and judges were collaborating to throw Lula into jail.
Only after these words Lula added: – We keep fighting and the victory will be ours!
One thing is certain: the struggle will last until the very last second of the campaign. To secure a victory, Lula most mobilise the maximum of his voters and make sure that Bolsonaro’s dubious heritage is not covered by fake news the right-wing media keep publishing. He has all the establishment against him. Despite his alliance with Alckmin and his well-known commitment to democracy, he is still not the candidate who has traditional elites behind him.
The polarisation is shown by the post-election map.
Lula won decisively in the poorer, more working-class regions of the Brazilian coast. The agricultural south, where the concept of ‘great land ownership’ is by no means a thing of the past, supported Bolsonaro.
In the northeastern state of Piaui, Lula won the support of more than 74 per cent of voters. In neighbouring Maranhao, 68.84 per cent of Brazilians voted for him. Similarly in the ocean regions of northeastern Brazil: Ceara, Pernambuco, Paraiba and Rio Grande del Norte Lula won with a score of more than 60 per cent, while Bolsonaro only won 30 per cent in the latter state.
In the wealthier, agricultural regions, the proportions are almost reversed: in the agricultural Roraima in the north-west of the country, nearly 70 per cent of voters chose Bolsonaro. The far-right politician also won more than 60 per cent of the vote in Rondonia and Acre in the west of Brazil. In the other southern states, Bolsonaro’s lead was also clear.
The most even electoral battle took place in the industrial regions of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. In the former, the far right won: Bolsonaro exceeded 47 per cent, Lula only 40. In the latter, 48.29 per cent of voters supported Lula, Bolsonaro had 43.6 per cent of indications.
The fierce struggle for power in Latin America’s largest country will continue. Often in the very literal sense of these words, as Bolsonaro supporters, driven by aggressive media campaign, often attacked their opponents physically. – A lawmaker belonging to da Silva’s Workers Party, Paulo Guedes, posted on social media that his car had been shot at three times by Bolsonaro supporters during a rally on September 25 – Time reports.
The second round of the presidential election takes place on 30 October and the stakes are enormous.
Brazil is not only the key to South America and a regional political trendsetter. It is not only the most populous country on the continent, with millions of working people hoping for a totally basic improvement of living conditions which Bolsonaro would never give them. It is also home to Amazon forests, which are absolutely essential to our survival as human race. Under Bolsonaro, the forests were mercilessly destroyed for profit.
As Heinz Bierbaum of the European Left wrote, Lula’s electoral result is a hope for Brasil. In fact, if he wins in the end, he would offer a hope even to people living far away from this country. And this hope will arise from millions’ struggle.