Inconclusive vote: Brazil wakes up to four more weeks of uncertainty

Published October 4, 2022
Rio de Janeiro: A vendor holds up the front page of one of Brazil’s national newspapers the day after the presidential elections on Monday.—AFP
Rio de Janeiro: A vendor holds up the front page of one of Brazil’s national newspapers the day after the presidential elections on Monday.—AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO: After an inconclusive first round of presidential elections, Braz­ilians woke up on Monday to another month of uncertainty in a deeply polarized political environment and with renewed fears of unrest.

Seeking to make a spectacular comeback, ex-president and frontrunner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 76, failed to garner the 50 percent of votes plus one needed to avoid an October 30 runoff against far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, 67.

Lula got 48.4 percent of the vote in Sunday’s first round, followed by Bolsonaro with a much closer-than-expected 43.2 percent that seemed to signal a high level of enthusiasm for his conservative brand of “God, country and family” politics.

Lula had gone into Sunday’s first round with 50 percent of polled voter intention, and Bolsonaro with 36 percent. The divisive president’s surprise performance likely spells a difficult time ahead, analysts said.

“I think it will be a very stressful campaign,” Leonardo Paz, Brazil consultant for the International Crisis Group, said.

“Bolsonaro and Lula will come... for each other, and I think Bolsonaro will double down on... saying that the system was against him.” Bolsonaro has repeatedly sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s electronic voting system and has questioned the validity of opinion polls that have consistently placed him a distant second.

Now, with real-life results seeming to bear out his claims, “more people may believe in what Bolsonaro is saying,” said Paz.

The incumbent president has repeatedly hinted that he would not accept a Lula victory, raising fears of a Brazilian version of the riots last year at the US Capitol after former president Donald Trump refused to accept his election loss.

Bolsonaro “will be very emboldened,” by Sunday’s electoral performance, said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank.

“It will give him some momentum because he’s beaten the expectations... He will play on that the experts were wrong: ‘I’ve got the momentum and I’ll defy expectations again in the second round’.” Late Sunday, Bolsonaro proclaimed to journalists: “We defeated the opinion polls’ lie.” Passions will be high on both sides for the next four weeks.

Lula’s failure to pull off a first-round victory leaves Bol­sonaro with “an extra month to cause turmoil in the str­eets,” political scientist Guil­herme Casaroes of the Getulio Vargas Foundation’s (FGV) Sao Paulo School of Business Administration said.

“Any kind of doubt that he casts upon the electoral system will work in his favor... demobilising voters not to go vote for Lula.” This would mean hammering on Lula’s flaws, including his controversial conviction for corruption — since overturned in court, but not necessarily in the court of public opinion — and the 18 months he spent in jail.

“Certainly he (Bolsonaro) is very capable of revving up his base and they could interpret that (as the all-clear) to go after Lula supporters... You can’t rule it out,” said Shifter.

“There’s just a lot of rancor and a lot of hate and a lot of distrust and it would not be surprising if some of that leads to some unrest,” he added.

Any violence, however, was likely to be in the form of isolated incidents and not organized, just like it has been so far, analysts said.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Wayward ideology
02 Dec, 2022

Wayward ideology

Anyone who claims his legacy for themselves should not treat his words so whimsically.
Progressive stance
02 Dec, 2022

Progressive stance

THE timing of two encouraging developments in the fight against domestic violence in Pakistan could not have been...
China Covid protests
02 Dec, 2022

China Covid protests

PUBLIC protests are rare in China where the People’s Republic maintains order through a strict authoritarian code...
Punjab crisis
01 Dec, 2022

Punjab crisis

ADMINISTRATIVE chaos has ruled Punjab ever since the ouster of the PTI government in April, deepening the...
Quetta attack
01 Dec, 2022

Quetta attack

It would be foolishness of the highest order were the authorities to ignore the emerging threat.
World AIDS Day
01 Dec, 2022

World AIDS Day

AS countries mark World AIDS Day on Dec 1, a timely report from Unicef has renewed concerns about the severe...