On October 2, the first round of general elections took place in Brazil: Brazilians voted to choose the president, the entire lower house of parliament, a third of the senate and many governors. However, the focus of the world’s attention, without exaggeration, was on the presidential elections. After all, the question ‘who will be president of Brazil’ is by no means an idle one. It concerns the country's further development, the direction of its foreign policy, its positioning in the international arena in the light of Brazil's upcoming G20 chairmanship in 2024, the country's role in the UN and especially in its Security Council, where in 2022-2023 Brazil remains as a non-permanent member.
On October 2, the 1st round of general elections took place in Brazil: Brazilians voted to choose the president, the entire lower house of parliament, a third of the senate and many governors. However, the focus of the world’s attention, without exaggeration, was on the presidential elections. After all, the question ‘who will be president of Brazil’ is by no means an idle one. It concerns the country’s further development, the direction of its foreign policy, its positioning in the international arena in the light of Brazil’s upcoming G20 chairmanship in 2024, the country’s role in the UN and especially in its Security Council, where in 2022-2023 Brazil remains as a non-permanent member.
At the same time, the fate of Brazil’s international role is being decided by internal electoral battles, where not world problems, but purely domestic ones have come to the fore. Their solution will determine the country’s strategy in the world arena.
The main struggle flared up between the two main rivals, who expectedly made it to the second round — the right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and the leftist Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the country’ ex-president (2003-2010).
Brazil’s elections are characteristically unpredictable and feature dramatic twists; this time they have brought a number of political surprises. The first is the failure of sociological agencies to predict Bolsonaro’s appeal among the electorate. Immediately before the 1st round, data appeared about a possible victory for Lula in the 1st round; however, most polls still gave him 47-48% and predicted that he would enter the 2nd round. The real vote dispelled this forecasting: if in relation to Lula they were justified (he received 48.43%), then Bolsonaro’s result — 43.20% against the predicted 33-36% — was stunning. The difference of 5% between the two leaders in the race is minimal, easily overcome by an active president, and today the result of the 2nd round is even more unpredictable than the results of the first one.
The second surprise also stemmed from the voting results and was already projected for the 2nd round. Twelve additional candidates entered the presidential race, one of whom later withdrew his candidacy in favour of Lula. Of the remaining 11, seven had ratings that were close to zero (the “highest” result was 0.51%). However, the surprise came from the candidates who took 3rd and 4th places and personified the so-called centrist “third way” (“neither Lula nor Bolsonaro”): Ciro Gomez from the Brazilian Trabalist Party (4-6% during the campaign) and Simone Tebet from the Brazilian Democratic Movement (1-3%). According to the results of the 1st round, they changed places: Siro with 3% dropped from 3rd place to 4th, and Simone rose to 3rd, having received a little more than 4%. While these results were statistically insignificant, the political class began to talk about Simone Tebet as a new political star. The question arose which of the two second-round candidates the “dropped out” politicians would call upon their electorate to vote for. The intrigue (it really took place, because both acted as decisive opponents of Lula) was resolved in favour of Lula: although neither accept his political program, they justified their support by their categorical rejection of Bolsonaro. Despite the insignificant result of both, their voters can play a decisive role for Lula: after all, in the 1st round he lacked only 1.8 million votes to win (the Brazilian electorate in 2022 is 156 million people out of a population of 213 million people). The productive nature of the alliance with Tebet was manifested in the inclusion of a number of provisions of her program in Lula’s program.
After the 1st round, support for Lula was declared by major figures in Brazilian politics, as well as by major entrepreneurs and heads of major corporations, which at the moment are not in Bolsonaro’s “piggy bank”.
The data of the first polls after the 1st round, published on October 10, did not violate the already familiar picture: Lula — 51%, Bolsonaro — 42%, with the “rejection rating” of both, respectively, 42:48.
Supporters of the incumbent president achieved great success in the 1st round in the elections to both houses of parliament: There was a sharp slide to the right in both chambers of the legislature, greater than in the 2018 elections that brought victory to Bolsonaro. The factions of the Bolsonarists and the security forces supporting them, as well as evangelists, conservatives have significantly strengthened. The deputies and senators were former members of Bolsonaro’s cabinet, including those who had a negative reputation in the eyes of NGOs. The PT’s cross-party alliance, allied with other left and centre-left parties, gives it so few seats that it will have to ally with the right and centre-right to pass any bill.
The current race is conspicuous for having the shortest official campaign in the history of democratic elections (46 days) and the longest time gap between two rounds (28 days, usually three weeks). Analysts dubbed this period “a 28-day night”, hinting at the unpredictability of the outcome of this “night”.
As a result of the first round, the political polarisation that characterised the campaign (which officially began on August 16, but actually went on for almost two years, since Lula’s corruption charge was dropped in March 2021 by the Supreme Court, which allowed him to enter the electoral race) has intensified even more. Its intransigence and sharpness, the sharpest confrontation of rivals and their realisation that there is “nowhere to retreat” make them increase their activity, look for allies, work with the electorate and frankly risk it all.
The main tactic of both rivals in the second round is the struggle for a new electorate. The “nuclear electorate” of each of them has already said its word, but both of these votes were not enough to win. The struggle for a new electorate; the game on “each other’s fields” began even before the first round: Bolsonaro directed his agitation towards Lula’s preferential zone — the North-East, and Lula launched active work among Bolsonaro’s main electoral pillars -evangelists, the military, and within agribusiness. As an unsurpassed “political moderator” with vast experience in building political alliances with “opposite” political forces such as the centre-right and moderates, Lula (with the help of his running mate J. Alkmina, who has connections and influence in these circles), managed to achieve certain successes. They’ve won over part of the business community, ensured the neutrality and sometimes the sympathy of the military (who remember their cooperation during Lula’s time in office), and split the evangelicals. The elite of the evangelical churches, with enormous financial resources and political influence, unambiguously support the evangelical president, while many young and poor evangelists voted for Lulu. Thus, the evangelicals are divided precisely along social class lines. If in his agitation among evangelicals Lula focuses on social issues, then Bolsonaro focuses on the question of values.
The battle for evangelical votes is one of the central elements in this “duel” between rivals. At the same time, Bolsonaro aimed a blow against Lula in appealing to Catholics, who support the latter.
The main “battlefield” of both candidates is the social class issue. The degradation of the social sphere under Bolsonaro’s rule, the return of the poor to poverty, the appearance of 33 million hungry, and such sensitive issues for the electorate as inflation, rising prices, and impoverishment — all of these have pushed the poor to embrace Lula en masse. Millions of people remember the positive results of Lula’s social reforms; this played a key role. Bolsonaro also realised that he could not win without an effective social agenda. Even before the 1st round, he distributed “social bonuses” left and right, using the administrative resources; for example, he put forward the “Aid to Brazil” programme — social payments to the poor.
A “promise race” between the candidates has begun on the social field — a competition in which each candidate strives to surpass the promises of the enemy.
In general, the results of voting in the 1st round testifies to the deepening of the correction of society and the political class, as well as the growth and activation of conservative preferences. The potential and political capital of Bolsonarism has by no means been exhausted. In the run-up to the second round election (which will take place on October 30), Bolsonaro is ramping up his criticism of Lula and is fighting for Lula’s poor electoral base, while Lula seeks to hold on to his traditional electorate while gaining middle-class support.
After the 1st round, support for Lula was declared by major figures in Brazilian politics, as well as major entrepreneurs and heads of major corporations, which at the moment are not in Bolsonaro’s “piggy bank”.
In addition to the personal component, which for Brazilians is often of decisive importance in the confrontation between two rivals, the content component has objectively come to the fore: we are talking about alternatives for further development, about choosing a socio-economic model.
The results of the 2nd round are unpredictable, but whoever becomes the winner will be a world-class leader, who will have to respond to the complex and acute challenges of the disturbing modern world.