Written by Former Chairman of the International Youth Democrat Union IYDU, Bruno Kazuhiro
Brazil experienced an extremely polarized electoral process, where two charismatic leaders with deep social penetration faced each other from completely different points of view and policy. In the midst of a great judicialization of the election, there was a climate among supporters and militants of “anything goes,” as long as it was to benefit the preferred candidate or harm the opposing candidacy. The comparison with football is inevitable: good is the referee who marks a non-existent penalty in favor of his team and bad is the referee who points out a clear penalty in favor of the opponent. This was, in many instances, the spirit of a society divided by election, where each side believed it possessed a “higher truth.”
Families fighting, friends breaking up long friendships and even crimes committed. Not to mention the aggressiveness on social media, since anti-socialists saw Bolsonaro as the only option and anti-Bolsonarism saw Lula as the only alternative. There were positive and negative arguments for both sides: Lula, a former unionist, was president between January 2003 and December 2010 and became known for his connection with the poorest people served by his social programs. But he was arrested for corruption and only registered a candidacy because his conviction was overturned as a matter of jurisdiction rather than merit. Bolsonaro, a former military man, garnered great support from the most conservative, however, he got involved in several controversies, had poor management of the pandemic, and showed a lack of empathy.
On the one hand, Bolsonaro had the support of conservatives, agribusiness, many businessmen, and, especially, the increasingly growing evangelical portion of the Brazilian population. On the other hand, Lula had the support of progressives, identitarians, and those who are still grateful to him because of his social programs. If Bolsonaro was called elitist and genocidal, Lula was called corrupt and a liar. If the current president was accused of authoritarianism and prejudice, the former president was called the destroyer of the traditional family.
Compared to the numbers in the polls carried out before and during the first round of the elections, Bolsonaro had a much better result than expected and prevented a victory for Lula in the first round. It is worth mentioning that the PT (Lula’s Workers’ Party) won votes from the left, votes from the centre, personal votes, and anti-Bolsonarist votes. Bolsonaro took the contest to the second round showing that the conservative, anti-PT, and anti-politics votes were even greater than imagined.
A Lula victory by 48% to 43% in the first round raised the possibility of Bolsonaro’sre-election. However, the days of campaigning in the second round brought more successes for Lula than mistakes and more mistakes for Bolsonaro than successes. The former president added the support of Simone Tebet, third in the first round, who managed to garner votes from the center and those who were discontented with the polarization. In addition, center and center-right politicians, intellectuals, economists, and celebrities declared their support for Lula in order to defeat Bolsonaro. Meanwhile, the current president saw his supporters make mistakes such as shooting at the police, pointing a gun at an opposing militant, and announcing that, in the event of Bolsonaro’s victory, the minimum wage would not be raised.
These facts built Lula’s narrow victory in the second round. He managed to assemble a broad front, while Bolsonaro spoke to the converts, although he showed that these are very many and almost won. Perhaps the mistakes of the second round were costly. Now Lula has two major challenges: to organize his broad coalition to build not just a campaign, but a diverse and pluralistic government, and to unite a country that came out of the polls completely split in half, whether in politics, society, religion, or in the percentages of the result, which were 50.9% vs. 49.1% on the decisive night.
And the good news is that the elections for state governments pointed to two important trends for the future of the country: the survival of the political center, with victories in very relevant states, and the renewal with quality and common sense of left, center, and right, pointing to more purposeful and less personal future claims to the presidency.