Lula da Silva beats Bolsonaro, Shift in Brazilian Politics


Brazilian flag captured by Mateus Campos

Danni Chacon, Senior Editor

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva—or “Lula”—has beaten out Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s most recent presidential election. In the election, Lula secured 50.8 percent of the votes while Bolsonaro was just shy with 49.2 percent of the vote share in the second round, also known as the runoff election in a two-round voting system. In this electoral process, the candidate who wins the most votes on the second ballot is elected. So far, this election has become the country’s most polarizing election and has also marked the first time that a sitting president failed to win re-election.

After a presidency and nation battered by the socioeconomic turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brazilians are looking for fresh leadership. While Bolsonaro’s campaign focused on a rightward shift- privatization and lowering taxes for companies- in Brazilian politics, Lula promised progressive advancements.

Lula and Bolsonaro’s conflict goes back a long time. Lula became president in 2003 and served two terms until 2010. He was a former union leader and Brazil’s first working-class president as a past metalworker. Lula left office with an 83% approval rating. Then, in 2018, Bolsonaro beat Lula out of office. However, the last four years saw Bolsonaro’s approval rating plummeting. His administration is characterized by the relatively poor handling of the pandemic, an increase in deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, and government policies that actively sideline environmentalism. Others believe he has undermined and hollowed out political institutions and bureaucracies by eliminating agencies, specifically those that have undermined special groups that support him. Lula, on the other hand, ran on the platform that the country’s economy was better back when he was in office. As of now, the country alongside the rest of the world is waiting for Bolsonaro to recognize the victory as he has not conceded power but has allowed for a transition of government. 

In light of this contentious election, Vanderbilt’s Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies (CLACX)  hosted a roundtable discussion called “Beyond the Elections: What to Expect in Brazil” featuring Distinguished Professor of History Marshall Eakin, CHPP fellow Ana Luiza Morais Soares, and political science Ph.D. candidate Guilherme Fasolin. The discussion featured conversations about the significance of the Brazilian presidential election and hinted at parallels between the United States and Brazil, ending with, “Lula vs. Bolsonaro is Trump vs. Obama in the United States in two years.”

Soares was surprised by Bolsonaro’s vote share and explained that he had lost popularity during the pandemic but continued to experience an increase in votes this year. She also acknowledged that Bolsonaro “tried very hard to win by funding organizations and lowering wages during the electoral period and still lost, which is very unique.” Professor Eakin supported these arguments and added that votes doubled in this election from 9 years ago and that the last candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, who went against Lula got 16,000 votes less than Bolsonaro. He also stated that the 2022 election is the closest election yet in the last 9 years. He also points out that the rise in evangelical protestants and the decrease in Catholic Brazilians in politics brings about a sea of change. 

It is clear that the most recent election is a transformative one for Brazil. Lula is planning on reconstructing Brazilian politics. As Latin America’s largest country, the country and now leadership can also play a significant role in meeting the demands of the region and setting a new standard.