Lula's victory is not a clear victory for the Left as some media claims. He obtained 48 percent of the valid votes - less than what many polls predicted - which led to a run off. In the end, the winning percentage was barely 1 %. Most Brazilians see him still as corrupt though the margin is slim.
Bolsonaro got two million more votes than in the first round of the 2018 presidential election. This is even after being branded as a failure in managing the economy or the pandemic and the climate change agenda, especially regarding Amazon deforestation.
The right-wing parties and, in particular, the far right, did better than forecasts made. They won more representatives in the two houses of parliament than Lula and his allies.
Even Lula's toughest opponent, former Judge Sergio Moro, who led the anti-corruption probe that saw him jailed, Damares Alves, a conspiracy theorist claiming family values are under threat and former health minister Eduardo Pazuello, who made a mess of the pandemic response were all elected.
The election was not a victory of the poor, as some have claimed. Part of the reason why Lula was unable to rally all of his former electorate may be that financial aid programmes for disadvantaged families introduced by Bolsonaro to address the economic downturn during the pandemic were extended.
Research data shows that Bolsonaro attracted more votes than Lula from the "precariat" - Brazilians who are above the poverty line but, nevertheless, face constant economic insecurity. They would qualify as the lower middle class in Bangladesh as per socio-economic status. These are people who are micro entrepreneurs, who have gig jobs, small businesses or are self-employed. They struggle economically and seek the stability that the far-right promises.
Even in 2018 election a truck drivers' strike took place. It began with protests but ended with a call to the army to intervene and "solve the problems". Bolsonaro had backed the strike, which boosted his popularity ahead of the vote.
Lula's power base is the bottom layer who benefitted from his cash for school programme" the Bolsa Familia. The line between the two groups is not deep or straight, but there is tension over economic opportunity available to them. It's about the rising lower middle and lesser classes' conflict rather than the poor and the elite.
No coup in sight?
The army's top generals have given clear signals that whoever wins at the polls will assume the presidency. Furthermore, foreign powers, such as the Biden administration, have indicated that they would not support "anti-democratic" ventures.
A win for Lula does not mean success as the Right dominates the parliament. "PT and its supporters would face a radicalised and armed opposition on the ground committed to defending "true Christianity, family values" and traditional gender roles. In this context, a Lula victory would not mean a return to the "happy Brazil" of the 2000s, as his campaign suggested," said Bruno Cava, writing in Al-Jazeera.
Why did Bolsanaro lose?
The main enemy is Covid and the global economic downturn. Bolsonaro handled it poorly with more people dying than all countries except the US. After Lula's release, his alliance with disgruntled rights wingers tipped the scale. Lula has promised to restore public services now sunk low due to years of underinvestment, lower domestic energy prices, battle inflation and easing food insecurity. Some are however critical of his policies as he has declared nothing. Lula told TIME magazine, in March 2022. "I've been a President twice already. We don't discuss economic policies before winning the elections. First, you have to win the elections."
With eight years of deep economic crisis, this round for Lula will be tough. Lula had greatly benefited from a commodity economic boom in his time which is over now. Now, global economic turmoil from the war in Ukraine is driving up energy prices, while a years-long drought is curbing food production.
Bolsonaro's global image is very negative due to his ravaging of the Amazon and handling of the Covid crisis. He called it a "little flu" but ended up with an almost 700,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths. But Bolsonaro is hardly over. Many of his ministers have won the election and his political movement is very alive. Even the former environment minister won a seat in Brazil's Congress at the first round of elections making his right-wing Liberal Party the largest party in both the upper and lower house. The governorships of Brazil's three most economically-important states were also won by Bolsonaro allies. Lula's challenge is very big indeed.
The challenges ahead
The world has changed much since Lula was the President last. Not only has the economy become more globalized and interconnected but the challenges are in every sector including health and war. Lula has returned to power when the world is in its worst shape in many ways in the last few decades.
In this world, a better environment and economy doesn't depend on Brazil or Lula anymore. Russia and the West have shown their capacity to manage a world in which they reign as superpowers is very limited. Commodity prices have shifted by artificial demand loss generated by the war in Ukraine. The West did push the world into an acute shortage zone willingly, whether it's the Russians or the US.
Why Lula should be responsible for saving the environment when the West doesn't take on climate change issues is a question he won't answer but will become a big reality. The One World never existed, never will. It's how Brazil plays that game in the absence of any serious "political" globalization that global issues including climate change should be considered.
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