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Brazil’s next president

Brazil’s next president

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After a first round of voting, Brazilians will head back to the polls at the end of the month to choose their next president. Why is this election so important?

“These are being billed as the most important since the country returned to democracy in 1989.”

BBC News

In the first round of Brazil’s presidential election there were two frontrunners in a field of 11 candidates.

Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro, and a man who led the country from 2003 until 2010.

“The leading contender is the former leader Luis Inancio Lula da Silva, he first came to power 20 years ago…”

BBC News

But when the results came out, the race was much closer than the opinion polls had suggested.   

Jair Bolsonaro won 43 per cent of the votes, while Lula won 48 per cent. 

Both candidates claimed it as a victory. 

And now the arch-rivals will go head to head in a run off at the end of the month.

So the choice for Brazilians is this: keep Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain and right-wing populist, in power… or elect a former union leader who also has experience as president. 

Jair Bolsonaro is popular with evangelical Christians, farmers and soldiers.

Lula is popular with the left, who are tired of the drop in living standards since he left office. 

So, what would each choice mean for Brazil?

***

“It’s bigger than a new year, bigger than a new world cup, politically for Brazil, it’s a new era that begins…”

France 24 News

Nearly two decades ago, Lula became the country’s first working-class president. 

He enjoyed eight years in power and during that time Brazil profited from a commodities boom, which meant he was able to lift millions of people out of poverty, and put Brazil firmly on the world stage.

“The executive committee has decided unanimously to give the responsibility to organise FIFA’s World Cup 2014 to the country… Brazil!”

Brazil announced as host country for the 2014 World Cup

“I have the honour to announce that the Games of the 31st Olympiad are awarded to the city of… Rio de Janeiro!”

Rio de Janeiro announced as host city for the 2016 Olympic Games

Winning the chance to host these two major sporting events were huge wins for Brazil, and for Lula, who Barack Obama hailed as “the most popular president on Earth”. 

When he left power in 2010, his approval rating was nearly 80 per cent.

But for Lula’s Workers’ Party, the following decade was bleak. Brazil fell into a recession and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached in 2016. The country became embroiled in “Operation Car Wash”, one of the world’s largest corruption scandals.

“Billions of dollars in bribes, hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, and hundreds of executives, politicians and officials implicated…”

Financial Times

Investigators uncovered a bribery scheme on the Workers Party’s watch, and Lula was caught up in it.

“Lula was convicted of accepting a beachside apartment from an engineering firm vying for contracts at the state oil company Petrobras, but many of Lula’s supporters say the conviction was politically motivated.”

Democracy Now!

Originally sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, Lula walked free after 18 months, where he was greeted by crowds in red t-shirts and caps, waving the flag of the Workers Party.

[Clip: crowds greeting Lula outside prison]

And it seems that Lula, now aged 76, spent his time in prison carefully plotting his comeback.

***

This election comes at a time of tension for Brazil.

Rising food prices are pushing more people into poverty. People are hungry. Sao Paulo alone has around 30,000 rough sleepers, a 30 per cent increase since 2019. 

And Jair Bolsonaro is facing criminal charges over his alleged mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic after more than 600,000 people died. 

Then there’s the fate of the Amazon rainforest.

Jair Bolsonaro says parts of the Amazon should be opened up to economic exploitation, and climate activists have warned that if he’s re-elected, the rainforest could reach a tipping point.

“He has slashed environmental protections, he has also supported the agribusiness industry whilst also turning a blinding eye to the colonisation of the forest and all of that has led to massive rates of deforestation.”

France 24 News

While Lula has said he’ll protect the Amazon…

“If Lula wins the election and becomes the new president, forest destruction in the Amazon could fall by 90 per cent in the next 10 years.”

France 24 News

But his own environmental record is still far from perfect.

***

Jair Bolsonaro has already hinted that he won’t accept defeat.

He’s cast doubt over Brazil’s electronic voting system, suggesting it’s open to fraud, raising concerns of a Trump-like insurrection if Lula wins. 

For the next month, Brazilians can expect the pair to trade insults as they fight for the presidency, while the rest of us wait to see what happens in one of the world’s largest economies.

This episode was written and mixed by Imy Harper.



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