Norms and Values
Brazil Before the Second Round: A Race of Promises
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On October 6, the Valdai Club held an expert discussion on the presidential elections in Brazil.

The moderator was Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. According to him, the presidential elections underscored the actual split of the country into two parts. Former President Lula da Silva, the left-wing candidate, won 48 percent, while incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing candidate, garnered 43 percent. At the same time, parliamentary elections were held, in which this stark split into two parts was not observed, but a third force showed itself — the Brazilian Union, a conglomerate of centrist parties. At the end of the month, the second round of presidential elections will take place, and the question is: what should be expected from it, and how foreign policy and domestic policy will change if one or another candidate wins.

Lyudmila Okuneva, Head of the Department of History and Politics of European and American Countries at MGIMO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Chief Researcher at the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences, described in detail the current political balance and the course of the election campaign in Brazil. She stressed that Bolsonaro received many more votes than sociologists predicted, although Brazilian sociology has a lot of experience and usually makes successful predictions. The results of the rivals are very close, the difference between them is only five percent — and the current president may well make up for it in a month. Now there is a sharp struggle for a new electorate, which, according to Okuneva, has given rise to a “race of promises.” The parties actively play for each other’s bases. In fact, what is happening looks like a clash not only between two leaders with two personalities, but also between two models of the country’s development, the researcher believes. Nothing can be predicted — the situation can change radically at any moment, which is, in principle, typical for Brazilian elections. The final result will be decided by the Brazilian people. Brazil is a major world player; relations with Brasilia are of great importance for Russia, therefore it is extremely important for Russia and for the whole world who will be the next president of the country.

Dmitry Razumovsky, Director of the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences, noted that the election campaign was notable for its phenomenal scandalousness. Predicting the possible results of the victory of one or another candidate, he pointed out that Bolsonaro’s programme is much more clearly defined and in fact implies a simple continuation of his course. Despite his ambiguous reputation, he has generally achieved success in the economy. Meanwhile, Lula da Silva has built his campaign mainly around opposing Bolsonaro, so it is rather difficult to say what specific steps he will take. The “inclusive growth model” he promoted worked well in a favourable export environment, but caused problems after he left power. Now the export situation is much worse, and this means that Lula will no longer be able to pursue the previous policy.

Victor Jeifets, Director of the Centre for Iberoamerican Studies at St Petersburg University, believes that no matter which of the two rivals wins the Brazilian elections, the results of the upcoming US Congress elections in November will seriously affect its foreign policy. “Brazil makes its own decisions, but it makes them in context,” he stressed. If the Republicans win a majority, Biden’s position will be weakened, giving the winner in Brazil a chance to play on different fronts. At the same time, the policy of any of the presidential candidates is unlikely to be complex. The former clear orientation of Lula towards cooperation along the South-South line and opposition to the collective West and Bolsonaro’s clear orientation towards rapprochement with the United States will now most likely not happen. Also, according to Jeifetz, the topic of BRICS is important for both Lula and Bolsonaro in these elections as one of the tools to pull Brazil out of the economic crisis. Speaking about Brazil’s relations with Russia, the expert noted that we have a rare case when both candidates are close and convenient to Russia, and sharp turns cannot be expected from them.