Among the groups most courted by the two candidates before the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, women and evangelicals (a term which brings together members of the very many Protestant churches) figure prominently. But the big battle seems to revolve around the vote of the most deprived. Traditionally, the poor are on the side of Lula, of whom everyone knows the very humble origins of the son of peasants from the Nordeste who became a worker, then a trade unionist. And the redistribution policies that he put in place during his two terms as president, between 2003 and 2011, and which lifted between 30 and 40 million people out of poverty.
For his part, Jair Bolsonaro is sparing no effort to fill the voice gap. He has at his disposal a lever that is all the easier to use because it is in his hands: social aid called “Auxílio Brasil” (“Brazilian assistance”), coming from the state budget. The 36 million people in extreme poverty, with an income of less than 1.50 dollars (1.49 euros) per day, are entitled to these allowances.
Half a million additional families eligible for aid
The day after the first round, the Bolsonaro team drew measures in favor of this electorate. New criteria have made half a million additional families eligible for the scheme. Lula promised in his campaign to add to the monthly 600 reais (112 euros) a bonus of 150 reais per child under 6 years old. In response, the current president pulls out of his hat a supplement of 200 reais for all women, who in addition could also benefit from a thirteenth month. These 600 reais correspond to the renewal of the emergency aid decided in 2020, at the time of the paralysis of the economy due to the pandemic. After returning to 400 reais when the lockdown was lifted, the government quickly backtracked.
Another presidential promise: a bonus of 800 reais to any beneficiary of Auxílio Brasil who finds a job. An incentive to seek work, since the system is often accused of fomenting idleness. Lula, in his program, proposed for his part a revaluation of the minimum wage, currently set at 1,212 reais, beyond inflation, which this year should be around 6%.
Advance payment of social benefits
In addition, the payment of social benefits has been brought forward to fall well before the second round. As shown the official calendar, the transfers are staggered between the 17th and the last day of each month, according to the last digit of the NIS (the equivalent of the Social Security number) of the beneficiaries. In this month of October, the money was sent between the 11th and the 27th. The Auxílio Gas was also paid in advance. This aid, introduced at the end of 2021, corresponds to 50% of the price of a 13-kilo liquefied gas cylinder, or 112 reais today.
The Auxílio Brasil is the new name given by Bolsonaro to the “Bolsa Familia” (“family scholarship”), the income redistribution program that Lula generalized in 2003 – and implemented by his predecessor, the centrist Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The Lula formula is still cited as an example today by the UN and major financial institutions, which have highlighted its effectiveness and modest cost: less than 0.5% of GDP.