Lula Lula. Photo: Maí Yandara / Mídia NINJA / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0, license linked below article

Left-wing Lula has ousted Bolsonaro and won the Brazilian presidency in a huge victory against the right, but there is still lots of work to be done, writes Orlando Hill

The world can sigh with relief. Lula has managed to defeat Bolsonaro and won his third term as president, a first in Brazilian history. Bolsonaro has also made history by becoming the first president not to be re-elected since 1994 when the re-election amendment was approved. 

Right at the beginning of the counting of the election, Bolsonaro cancelled a speech to the press at the Presidential Palace (Palácio da Alvorada) and has since refused to speak even to his closest allies and has not answered any phone calls. So far he has remained in total silence.

On 19 October, according to Lauro Jardim from Jornal Globo, the incumbent president’s team met at the Palácio da Alvorada to plan how to prevent voters from getting to the polling stations. The Federal Highway Police were instructed to be aware of the “irregular transport” of voters. Obviously, as the columnist states, it was never a concern with the brand of impartiality. The expectation was to bar the movement of PT voters exclusively.

“It wouldn’t even be necessary to give an explicit order for anything. As the police force is basically made up of supporters of the president, the consequence of an operation like this is obvious,” a member of Bolsonaro’s campaign told the journalist. Lula stated in his first speech as president-elect that what they faced during the campaign was not a candidate, but the machine of the Brazilian State.

On the day more than 300 road checks were set up mainly, but not exclusively in the Northeast. Buses were stopped and voters were told to get off and line up on the road with their hands on their heads. As usual the police were heavily armed. Witnesses reported police telling voters not to vote for an “ex-convict” (Lula).

Jeremy Corbyn, who was in Brazil as an international witness, tweeted about the blatant attempts to stop voters.

This is flagrant voter suppression. Electoral authorities must act quickly to redress this act of electoral manipulation.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 30, 2022

It was a narrow victory. Lula received 60,345,999 votes (50.99 percent) while Bolsonaro received 58,296,354 (49.10 percent). Lula’s stronghold was in the North and Northeast. Bolsonaro was in the richer South and Southeast and in the Centre West dominated by agribusiness.

Brazilians celebrate Lula’s victory. Photo: Juliana Junto

In his first speech as president elect Lula called on the Brazilian people to overcome differences and rebuild the country around a clear priority: the tough fight against poverty. He started his speech by thanking Simone Tebet, who ran for president in the first round as a “third way candidate”. 

He then went on to qualify the democracy he wishes to build:

“The Brazilian people want to live well, eat well. A job with a fair wage always readjusted above inflation, and quality public policies. [Democracy can] not just as a beautiful word written in the law, but as something palpable that we can build on a daily basis. It was with this real, concrete democracy that we made a commitment during the campaign. And we will seek to build every day of our government.”

He made many promises in his speech, to end poverty, racism, inequality and deforestation of the Amazon. But he will find it hard to fulfil them. He will have to deal with a congress with a majority of the right and the extreme right. Bolsonaro supporters managed to win some important rich states, mainly São Paulo. Bolsonarism has not gone away.

Lula defended a government where decisions are made openly with the participation of all segments of society, workers and entrepreneurs (i.e. capitalists). Simone Tebet, a representative of the agribusiness, is expected to get a ministry.

The struggle will be the fight for the hegemony of the new government. At the moment it is not clear who has the hegemony. The Workers’ Party (PT) avoided a posture of imposing hegemonism, but the colour of the campaign was red. Cross-class politics is always dangerous. Latin America’s recent history is full of cases which offer lessons to be learnt.

In such an alliance workers will always be the junior partner and their interesse suppressed. There will be attempts to put brakes on social movements. The left will need to figure out how to build a mass movement with class interests at its centre which can push Lula’s government forward while keeping an eye open for any attempt to overthrow it. The trade union movement is weak and that was shown in their participation in the campaign. There is a lot of work to be done.

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Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.

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