Lula, a retrospective victory in Brazil

Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, known as Lula, won the Brazilian presidential election with the Workers’ Party (PT) against outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro. The 77-year-old politician, president of Brazil between 2003 and 2011, will officially begin his third presidential term in January 2023. The Crime spoke with Iwa Nawrocki, a history professor at McGill University who specializes in history modern Latin America, and particularly that of Brazil.

A narrow victory

The campaign was marked by a strong polarization of Brazilian society and the fear of a script similar to the invasion of the Capitol in the United States, following the American elections in 2021, in the event of a narrow victory. Lula won the presidency by a short margin with 50.9% voices. In the 45 hours following the results, defeated candidate Bolsonaro remained silent as his supporters staged more than 500 roadblocks across the country. Alleging electoral fraud, the latter mobilized to “save democracy”, calling on the army to act. These allegations, fueled by numerous fake news (fake news), have been denied by the army. After two days of silence, Bolsonaro finally spoke in a short video address. He pledged to “respect the constitution” and called at the end of roadblocks: “ Peaceful protests will always be welcome, but we cannot use the methods of the left, […] that prevent freedom of movement “.

The challenges awaiting the new president

Despite his defeat, Bolsonaro enjoys a support much higher than that announced by the polls, giving it 27% in the first round, i.e. 15 points below the 43% received. Moreover, the Liberal Party, to which the incumbent president is affiliated, remains the main force in Congress and the Senate. Similarly, of the 27 states within the Brazilian federation, 14 are led by Bolsonaro supporters. Thus, if Lula won the presidency, he will have to deal with a strong Bolsonarist opposition. According to Iwa Nawrocki, interviewed by Le Délit, “Lula’s big challenge will be to forge alliances and negotiate. In this context, Lula has experience”. Indeed, during his first mandate in 2003, Lula had to form a alliance with more than 12 center parties (“centráo”), small political formations described as opportunist by many, in order to govern. Since his first two terms, the promises embodied by the leader of the PT have not changed, namely to put in place social and environmental protections. During the 2000s, thanks to favorable economic conditions, in what had been called the brazilian miracle, Lula had been able to combine social protection and economic success. In eight years, thanks to social programs like Bolsa Familia, 20 million Brazilians have risen out of poverty to join the ranks of the middle class, thus increasing the domestic market. This victoire society had been accompanied by economic victories, in particular the repayment ahead of the debt of 15.5 billion dollars to the IMF, and economic growth at 6% of GDP. At the end of his two terms, Lula had an approval rating of around 85%.

“Instead of asking me what I’m going to do, look at what I’ve done”

Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva

With Lula’s recent victory, the Brazilians hope to regain those years of economic and social growth. “Instead of asking me what I intend to do, look at what I have done,” Lula said during a interview for the Times during the campaign. And, indeed, many elements of his campaign hark back to that past, including his chorusa reworking of the one used during his first candidacy in 1989. Lula’s victory is therefore tinged with nostalgiafocused on its success in the 2000s. Paradoxically, “nostalgia is a phenomenon that affects young people more […] below 40 years “, for whom” Lula is a mythical character “, explained to us Iwa Nawrocki. Lula’s generation has meanwhile “been very critical of his progress towards the center”, she adds.

“Lula is committed to zero tolerance in the face of deforestation”

The respect of Lula’s commitments in favor of more social and environmental protections will largely depend on the Brazilian economic situation, affected by inflation reaching 11.73% in May. “If the economy is doing badly, there will be a lot less possible negotiations for social protections […] he will have to make more concessions to businessmen and agribusiness,” Iwa Nawrocki told us. However, he may be able to offer “minimal protections compared to what he could have done if he had a majority and if we thought we were entering a period of economic growth”. But, as the researcher reminded us, the social programs of the 2000s represented only a small part of GDP, namely 2%. In his programme, Lula committed himself to a zero tolerance in the face of deforestation, fires and illegal gold panning, while, according to representatives of indigenous peoples at a summit held last September, 26% of the Amazon “is contaminated and destroyed”. Deforestation had jumped by 75% under the presidency of Bolsonaro compared to the previous decade. However, the environmental issue was largely absent from the campaign, relegated to second plan behind the personal attacks between the two candidates, and the main concerns of Brazilians: the economy, poverty, education and corruption.


Lula’s position is also weakened by the fact that a large part of the population categorically rejects him because of the corruption scandals that marred his years in power and, more recently, his compromise with the oil company Petrobras. Indeed, Lula was sentenced to nine years in prison and imprisoned in 2017, then released in 2019. Despite his conviction being overturned in 2019 with the intervention of the Supreme Court, Lula was not cleared. The corruption of politicians in Brazil, revealed by the scandals of 2005 mensalao, the purchase of the support of the “centráo” parties by the PT and Lava Jato in 2017, is, according to some, inherent to the Brazilian multiparty system. According to Iwa Nawrocki, the question that must be asked is: “Is this proportional to general corruption? »

What do McGill students think?

Contacted by The offensea McGill student of Brazilian origin who preferred to remain anonymous told us that “ it is too early to say” but that “it will not be easy governance [pour Lula, ndlr]”. .Having only 50.9% of the vote also means that “ 49.1% of Brazilians don’t want him “, and ” Lula will have to learn to govern the Senate and Congress that oppose him “.

“Lula will have to learn to govern the Senate and Congress that oppose him”

A McGill student of Brazilian descent

Lula’s ability to deliver on his promises will depend on economic conditions, he says, as Brazil could come into recession. In the 2000s, Lula benefited from a favorable economic situation, so much so that ” another could have done the same things », Underlines the student in question.

This student does not share the fears expressed by some about the transition, stressing that “Bolsonaro will and must comply with a smooth transition”. He reminded us that the latter has had deputies and senators elected, and that he represents a major opposition force: ” He will remain in the democratic game. » « This shows that democracy still works “, he underlines.

In the same edition

Lula, a retrospective victory in Brazil – Le Délit