On 30 October, Brazilians elected a new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will take office on 1 January 2023. The Bolsonaro-Lula presidential contest took place amidst a polarized and tense political scene characterized by violence, debates with little to no content, accusations, and fake news. This produced further disinformation and mistrust about the credibility of the democratic process in Brazil.
Despite these tense dynamics, think tanks forecast the election results correctly (within the given margin of error). Lula took 50.9% of valid votes while Bolsonaro took 49.1%. This was a historic election: it marks the first time a Brazilian politician has been elected for a third presidential term while the incumbent was not reelected.
When the results were announced, Lula gave a heartfelt victory speech. In his speech, the new president presented his agenda, focusing on social integration policies, peace, and democratic dialogue between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government.
Lula promised to govern all 215 million Brazilians and said that there were not "two Brazils" and that Brazil was one people and one nation. This was a crucial statement considering the regime of intolerance that has been in place since the 2014 elections, which created a polarized and toxic environment in the country, debilitated democracy, and facilitated the rise of fascism. It ripped families and friends apart and made people afraid of sharing their political opinions publicly. With that in mind, Lula reaffirmed that his government would be one of love, unity, and solidarity, in which family, friends, and fraternal bonds would be mended. Lula concluded that it was time to put down weapons that never should have been raised and to advocate for life, peace, and love.
Another important section of Lula’s speech focused on the need for Brazil to combat hunger, social and political violence, racism and intolerance, end murders of indigenous and environmental activists, and protect the environment. Lula focused on goals that previously garnered international recognition and which, if achieved, would bring Brazil further positive attention on the global stage.
Lula emphasized the need to rebuild friendly relations between the legislative and judicial branches in Brazil in order to restore the democratic soul of the country. He added that the constitution governs the Brazilian political system and no citizen can operate above it.
Lula will face a difficult political scene in which he will have to find strategies to resolve challenges related to the economy, public security, the environment, and political opposition in the National Congress.
The 2022 elections resulted in an extremely conservative congress aligned with Bolsonaro’s ideology. The presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Arthur Lira and Rodrigo Pacheco, recognized the victory of the left-wing candidate as valid and committed themselves to helping strengthen democracy. However, the next government has little support and will have to negotiate with the National Congress in order to enact its policy agenda. It is important to remember that Lula is backed by only 80 House Representatives—from the Workers’ Party (PT), Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), and Green Party (PV)—as well as nine Senators. This puts him at a disadvantage relative to Bolsonaro’s allies.
With regard to the economy, the future is still uncertain, particularly when it comes to social inequality, public affairs, and unemployment. Brazil has oscillated between 0.524 in 2020 and 0.544 in 2021 in the Gini index, which measures social inequality (countries with higher rates of inequality have a Gini coefficient closer to 1). Although unemployment has fallen to 8.9%, wealth has been concentrated in the hands of one percent of the population. Furthermore, 14 million people experienced greater food insecurity in 2021. Lula will also have to deal with a 36-billion-real deficit when he takes office in 2023.
As for public security, Brazil has high rates of homicide, sexual assault, and feminicide. The country makes up 2.7% of the world’s population but is among the top 20 countries worldwide for intentional homicide rates. Sexual violence in Brazil increased in 2021 by about 4.2%, while feminicide rose to 1341 cases in 2021. One should also take into account the underreporting of these cases.
The environment is Brazil’s Achilles’ heel. Deforestation has increased 73% between 2019 and 2021 with an average loss of 11.34 thousand square kilometers per year. Brazil also needs to end the genocide of its indigenous people and erosion of their territory, and to combat illegal wood and ore sales.
Finally, although Lula’s government aims to restore Brazil’s standing on the national and international stage, the new president will have to be extremely strategic in implementing his social and environment protection policies. Lula claims that he will promote a green economy and invest in education, science, and technology to further Brazil’s economic recovery. However, the success of Lula’s agenda depends on national and international allies as well as the extent of the patience of the Brazilian people following the poor governance of the last four years. These dynamics might be not reversible over the course of a single presidential mandate.