BRASILIA.- Brazil reaches the end of the electoral campaign more polarized and violent of the last decades, with former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) and the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, in an open dispute for the presidency.
After a month dominated by accusations between the candidates of links to organized crime, satanism, cannibalism, pedophilia, and, finally, a complaint from Bolsonaro to the Superior Electoral Court for alleged irregularities in radio electoral propaganda -rejected for lack of evidence-, the needle moved little.
The polls have shown a scenario of stability, with small oscillations from the first round of October 2 until this Sunday, with Lula da Silva as the favorite, holding a slight advantage over the president, between 4 and 6 pointsjust above the margin of error.
The friday debate on TV Globo, considered the last opportunity to take advantage, ended in disappointment. Analysts considered the crossing as a “anti-discussion”, focused on mutual aggression and almost no surprises.
Despite Lula’s advantage, given the precedent of the first round – when the polls underestimated the level of support for Bolsonaro – it is difficult, according to analysts, to consider the lawsuit settled.
On the other hand, two keys appear that will be decisive in knowing What will be the end result this Sunday: the level of abstentionwith special impact on the northeastY the transfer of votes in the southeast regionwhere Lula and Bolsonaro, who won key support after the first round, focused their campaigns.
One of the main challenges of both campaigns was mobilize their supporters to go to the polls.
In the first round, the level of abstention reached 20.9%a little higher than in 2018. In numbers, there were 32.7 million voters who did not vote, five times the difference that Lula achieved over the president on October 2.
Abstention tends to be higher among the poorest electorate and less educated, for whom the cost of moving to the voting center usually weighs. It is, in theory, an electorate more aligned with Lula, so a higher level of absenteeism would hurt youexplained to THE NATION Paulo Calmon, political scientist at the University of Brasilia. “If they are going to vote en masse, it will be the factor that will give Lula victory”Calmon assured.
For this reason, the PT campaign began with a presentation to the Federal Supreme Court that authorized the 27 capitals of the country to set the free public transport on Sunday, and even some northeastern states provided free intermunicipal transportation.
But seen from a geographical perspective, in the first round the highest level of abstention was in the southeast region, mostly Bolsonarista and with the three largest standards in Brazil: São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro. A high abstention there could also harm the current president.
Historically, absenteeism tends to rise between the first and second rounds, when you no longer vote for deputies or senators and, in some states, not for governor either.
Minas Gerais, the second largest electoral college in the country, is considered the national thermometer. Whoever wins there usually wins the election.
In the first round, Lula won there by 46% to Bolsonaro’s 42%, almost a replica of the national result, 48% to 43%.
Both candidates made an effort to show themselves in Minas after the first round, with five visits by Bolsonaro and three by Lula before the official closing of the campaign, on Thursday.
After October 2, Bolsonaro received the support of the re-elected governor of Minas, Romeu Zema, of the Novo party, who campaigned after remaining neutral in the first round.
In the southeast, where the 40% of the electorateBolsonaro had, in addition to the support of Zema, the support of the governor of São Paulo, Rodrigo García, and the re-elected governor of Rio de Janeiro, Claudio Castro, from the same party as the president.
“The southeast became the preferred battlefield, and Bolsonaro’s strategy to counteract the support that Lula obtained from defeated candidates, such as Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes, was to rely on the electoral machines of the three largest states”, Said Leandro Consentino, professor at Insper de São Paulo.
Just as in the case of Lula, expanding the advantage in the northeast could tip the race in his favor, Consentino said that for the president to aspire to a comeback, he will have to widen his advantage in São Paulo, where on October 2 he took 1,750,000 votes from Lula, and reverse the result in Minas.
In the final stretch of the ballottage race, there was a mood reversal between the campaign command of Lula and Bolsonaro.
After the first round, optimism dominated Bolsonarismo, with positive news on the economy and significant support such as that of the Brazilian star Neymar, that configured a “comeback” scenario registered in the polls of the penultimate week.
But there were two events that changed the climate.
The episode of the former deputy Robert Jefferson, Bolsonaro’s ally last Sunday he received shots at police officers who were carrying out an arrest warrantcaused unknown damage to the president’s campaign, which identified the fact as one more difficulty in winning undecided and moderate votes.
On the other hand, the daily Folha de S.Paulo revealed a proposal by the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, to deindex the adjustments of the minimum wage and pensions to inflation, a theme explored by Lula’s campaign. Guedes denied that possibility and Bolsonaro closed the week promising a real increase for 2023 in the debate, something not contemplated in the budget.
“The episodes of the last week they blocked a pro-Bolsonaro wave that was brewing. There was no big loss in the polls, but it could have blocked a comeback,” Consentino said.