Brazil’s Lula launches presidential bid to overthrow Bolsonaro | Election News

Sao Paulo, Brazil – Songs of “Lula, Warrior of the Brazilian People!” rang out as Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the country’s most beloved politician, took the microphone at a May Day Labor Day event outside Sao Paulo’s iconic Pacaembu football stadium.

“We do not accept this hatred that is imposed by this genocidaire who rules Brazil,” the former president told the crowd twice, referring to the country’s current head of state, President Jair Bolsonaro. .

Lula, now 76, will launch his sixth bid for Brazil’s presidency on Saturday amid soaring costs of living and growing fears of authoritarianism in Latin America’s biggest democracy.

Bolsonaro, a gun-loving nationalist who admires leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, has repeatedly claimed without evidence that Brazil’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud, setting the stage for a potential crisis when votes are counted.

Brazilian pollster Datafolha said in March that Lula held a comfortable 17 percentage point lead over Bolsonaro in the first round of voting on October 2 – but experts predict he will narrow as the election nears.

“It will be a very difficult election,” said Thomas Traumann, political analyst and former communications minister of Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT). “For Lula, getting elected is only the first step.”

Hunger, key issues of poverty

Born into extreme poverty in the dry and rugged hinterlands of northeastern Brazil, Lula led strikes by metalworkers in the industrial suburbs of Sao Paulo in the late 1970s during the country’s military dictatorship, then is launched in politics.

Elected president on his fourth attempt in 2002 during a global commodity boom, international experts have hailed his policies to eradicate hunger and promote social inclusion in one of the world’s most unequal countries.

“Before Lula, many people in my neighborhood lived in wooden and cardboard shacks,” said Juliana Cardoso, a four-time Sao Paulo city councilor for PT, which represents some of the most disadvantaged parts of the vast eastern area of the city. to 4.6 million people. “Lula brought jobs, decent food, housing and a college education to the working class,” she added.

Today, with an economy shaken by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, inflation in Brazil is soaring with sharp increases in the prices of cooking gas, fuel and basic groceries, affecting many disproportionately low wages.

According to the Brazilian Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security Research Network, more than half of the population suffers from some form of food insecurity.

“People don’t have an income and whoever works can’t afford to put food on the table,” Cardoso said. “People in my district want President Lula back… They won’t accept scratching their bones to eat, or not having schools and opportunities.”

Unemployment has fallen slightly in recent months but remains high as many new vacancies are precarious and poorly paid, according to government data. Analysts consider a package of labor reforms aimed at extending the rights of Brazil’s ever-growing army of delivery app drivers a top priority and one that Lula mentioned during his Labor Day speech.

“The labor market is changing in several countries and in Brazil as well,” said Nelson Barbosa, an economist and former planning minister in Lula’s PT. “This requires an adaptation of legislation, taxation… a reform project that gives more security to the worker with the flexibility required by these current technologies.”

Important challenges

If elected, Lula will face significant challenges in alleviating the immediate problems of poverty while fighting inflation and ensuring job-creating growth.

“Brazil is increasingly specialized in raw materials,” Barbosa said. “The problem is that raw materials are not generating enough jobs for a country of 210 million people… You have pockets that are growing and becoming very rich in a country where the majority live in poverty.”

However, high commodity prices could help fund social policies and diversification programs for industry and green energy to generate growth, he said. “Brazil has done it before,” Barbosa said. “But the biggest challenge is governability,” he added.

If elected in October, Lula will have to work with the notoriously horse-trading National Congress of Brazil, where pork-barrel politics rule.

Experts predict that candidates loyal to Bolsonaro will fare less well than in 2018, but that Lula and allied parties will still be far from having the majority needed to push through the reforms, which will present possible problems of governability.

President Bolsonaro claimed without evidence that Brazil’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to fraud [Adriano Machado/Reuters]

“Overall, Brazil’s Congress in 2022 is likely to be as conservative as it is now,” said Beatriz Rey, a political scientist and researcher at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in Brazilian legislative politics.

Lula chose former center-right Sao Paulo governor and 2006 election rival Geraldo Alckmin to be his vice president, a move seen as a pragmatic attempt to rally the country’s political center and business community .

“Without a doubt, it is an attempt to generate more governability, it has as much an electoral objective as a legislative one,” Rey said. “If it will work, I don’t know.”

The countryside

Traumann, the political analyst, said people would not forget that Lula’s predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, oversaw the worst recession in Brazil’s recent history. “The current campaign is too much about the past and not enough about the future,” he added.

Brazil’s Supreme Court last year overturned a corruption-related conviction that saw Lula jailed in 2018 and the United Nations Human Rights Committee recently concluded that the trial of Judge Sergio Moro, who served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister, had violated due process.

Lula, his lawyers, numerous other jurists and his supporters have always called the conviction a political witch hunt to prevent him from running in the 2018 election which Bolsonaro would win.

Although acquitted and by far the most popular politician in the country, to his many detractors in Brazil, Lula remains irresponsible at best and a criminal at worst. But other longtime Lula critics, like former Sao Paulo governor and now presidential candidate Joao Doria, appear to have toned down their rhetoric.

Doria recently told Brazil’s leading business daily Valor Economico that he “respects” Lula. “Lula is not Bolsonaro, Lula is smart and has a past,” he said.

For their part, Bolsonaro and some of his supporters have tried to portray the election as a holy war in which the far-right leader is the messiah. “This land is our land, it is our Brazil. Our enemy is not external, he is internal,” Bolsonaro said at a recent event with his political party. “This is not a fight of the left against the right; it is a fight of good against evil.

Meanwhile, the specter of some sort of authoritarian takeover in a country that endured a brutal 21-year military dictatorship backed by the United States also looms.

A poll by Datafolha last year found that half of Brazilians feared Bolsonaro would try to stage some sort of coup. The former army captain maintains a strong base of die-hard supporters, including in the armed forces, although most experts consider a “tanks in the street” type coup highly unlikely.

“The fact is that Bolsonaro is not popular and his government is not popular,” Traumann said.

“But on a scale of 0 to 10, Bolsonaro graciously accepting the election results, [the chances] are [at] 1 or 2,” he said, drawing parallels with former US President Donald Trump – whom Bolsonaro idolized – and his rhetoric of not accepting defeat. “We’ve seen this movie before.”

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