by Glória Paiva *
Foreign Pages, October 31, 2022 – The Brazilians voted yesterday (30/10) in the second round of the presidential elections and they chose Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (Workers’ Party – PT) as the successor of Jair Bolsonaro (Liberal Party – PL) to assume the presidency from 1 January 2023. Lula obtained 50.9%, against Bolsonaro’s 49.1%, that is 2.1 million more votes. The result marks a new stage in Brazilian politics, after four years of strong political division and management criticized by progressive sectors around the world for its disastrous performance on issues such as the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, the environment. , human rights, the increase in poverty, the return of Brazil to the United Nations hunger map, among others. As in the first round, on 2 October, the abstention index was again raised to 20.57%, representing 32 million citizens.
Lula has won in most municipalities and in the North East region; while Bolsonaro won in the other four regions. It is the first time in the history of Brazilian democracy that a president loses the dispute at his own re-election and that a third presidential term will happen.
After the vote was counted, Lula celebrated with her supporters in São Paulo, where she gave a speech for millions of people. For the president-elect, in her words, “there are not two Brazil”. “It is time to rebuild a divided country,” she said. The petitioner also said that his most urgent commitment will be to mitigate hunger, one of the most serious problems of the last three years.
Despite Lula’s victory, specialists argue that the political division that has been consolidated in the last four years in Brazil will not end in 2023. The polarization is felt in the facts, which have now become daily, of political violence and will certainly be an obstacle to the governability of Lula, due to the new composition of the legislative: Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party will be the most represented in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Traffic police operations in the Pró-Lula regions
Yesterday, the Federal Traffic Police (PRF) failed to comply with an order from the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) and carried out at least 560 operations on roads across the country to “inspect” the free transport of voters. Half of these actions were carried out in the North East region, where Lula has the majority of voters. On social media, many reported difficulties in accessing the voting places and delays of up to three hours. TSE president Alexandre de Moraes said, however, that the fact did not prevent voters from reaching their polling stations. Moraes asked in detail for information on PRF operations to assess the possible opening of proceedings against the perpetrators.
According to the G1 portal, Bolsonaro himself would have urged the Minister of Justice, Anderson Torres, to whom the Federal Traffic Police is subordinate, to order operations in the areas where Lula was the favorite. Ally of Bolsonaro, Torres met last week with the president in Brasília and with his campaign advisors. On Saturday (29), the director-general of PRF, Silvinei Vasques, had posted on a profile of her in a social network a photo in which she declared his vote to Bolsonaro, but the publication was canceled hours later.
In the last week, the Bolsonarists have raised the idea of changing the date of the second round or even of carrying out a “third round”, in the event of a tie or on the basis of alleged doubts about the legitimacy of the election and the impartiality of the TSE , despite the Brazilian electoral legislation does not provide for a third round. Furthermore, the electronic voting system, used in Brazil since 1996, is considered one of the safest in the world and has been periodically evaluated by public safety tests since 2009.
The history of the candidates
Lula, 77, was the 35th president of Brazil from 2003 to 2011, a period in which the country experienced a time of economic and social expansion. Born in Pernambuco, Lula was working as a mechanical press operator in the state of Sao Paulo when he began to participate in trade union movements in the late 1960s, during the military dictatorship. He led large workers’ strikes and helped found the PT in 1980. In 1989 he ran for the first time for president, having lost to Fernando Collor de Mello. He was nominated again in 1994 and 1998 and lost to Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Only in 2002 did he manage to defeat José Serra, breaking with 17 years of right or center-right management.
During Lula’s government, social programs such as Bolsa Família and Fome Zero were consolidated, recognized by the United Nations as initiatives that allowed the country to get off the Hunger Map and that helped reduce poverty by 50.6%, according to one. studio of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. Between 2003 and 2011, Brazil also accumulated large international reserves and tripled its GDP per capita. Nevertheless, in parallel the PT, along with other large parties of the time, was also involved in some cases of irregularities, in particular in the corruption scandal called “Mensalão”, which came to light in 2005. In Mensalão, parliamentarians received bribes to continue to support the government in Congress. However, Lula managed to have Dilma Rousseff as his successor, his ally and Chief Minister of the Civil House in the previous government, elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
In 2017, as part of the Lava Jato operation, Lula was convicted of corruption and money laundering, which led to him being jailed in April 2018.. After 580 days, he was released by decision of the Supreme Federal Court (STF), which intended that the execution of the sentences should take place only after second degree. In the following years, his political rights were re-established and Lula was found not guilty. Furthermore, it came to light that investigations leading to Lula’s conviction were not impartial and that her appointed judge, Sergio Moro, cooperated with the prosecution during the proceedings.
Born in Glicério, in the state of Sao Paulo, Jair Bolsonaro is a former military man and was federal deputy for the state of Rio de Janeiro from 1991 to 2018. In 1986 he became known after publishing an article for Veja magazine in which he criticized the low salaries of the military. A year later, the same magazine published an article accusing Bolsonaro of being one of the authors of a plan to detonate bombs in a Rio de Janeiro barracks. As a deputy he was the protagonist of a series of controversies, such as his statements in which he praised the military dictatorship, when he spoke out against homosexuals or threatened his opponents such as the deputy Maria do Rosário and Jean Wyllys.
In 2018 he was elected 38th president of Brazil. His administration was marked by the scientific denial with which he treated the pandemic, by his frequent attacks on Brazilian democratic institutions, by inciting intolerance and violence against political opponents and minorities, by the dismantling of organizations and policies to protect the ‘Amazon and indigenous peoples, leading to the highest deforestation rate in the past 15 years. In addition, Bolsonaro was responsible for signing a series of decrees that facilitated access and quintupled the presence of weapons in Brazil.
In her ministries, the presence of many soldiers in civilian positions and figures completely independent from the themes of their respective offices was notable, such as the evangelical pastor Damares Alves, Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, and the two Ministers of the Environment, Ricardo Salles (2018-2021) and Joaquim Leite (2021-2022), both well-known defenders of the so-called “ruralists”, great leaders of agribusiness in Brazil.
In addition, Bolsonaro and his family have been accused of numerous corruption scandals, such as the purchase of 51 properties in cash, the so-called “rachadinha” scheme (embezzlement of funds intended for the hiring of public employees), the so-called “Bolsolão do MEC” (corruption scheme in the Ministry of Education) and requests for bribes from the Ministry of Health to the laboratory producing the Astra-Zeneca vaccine against COVID.
A turbulent month
The 30 days between the first and second rounds were a period of intense political turbulence across Brazil, with political violence, swapping accusations by candidates, and an even stronger wave of disinformation on social media than in the first round. A study from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) notes that the circulation of fake news has increased by 23% on Telegram, by 36% on WhatsApp and by 57% on Twitter in the last four weeks. Overall, according to the study, the daily average of fake news in circulation increased from 196.9 thousand, before the first round, to 311.5 thousand after.
According to the research, the main topics during the campaign (and also the target of fake news) were the issue of the integrity and security of the electoral system, repeatedly questioned by the president, the issue of Christian values, the alleged non reliability of traditional press and socio-environmental, gender and family issues. The latter two are often placed on the Bolsonarian agenda to support his propaganda as a candidate in defense of the traditional Brazilian family and against progressive agendas, such as LGBTQ + rights and the fight for decriminalization of abortion.
Cases of political violence have also increased by about 40% in the last month since the first round, with at least 60 cases recorded, according to Amnesty International. L‘last episode featured the Bolsonarian federal deputy Carla Zambelli, who was filmed in the streets of Sao Paulo with a gun in her hand while chasing an unarmed voter from Lula. Foreign Pages
* Glória Paiva is a Brazilian journalist, writer and translator