BRAZIL’s first round of the presidential election between Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro was surprisingly close.
The leftist comfortably fended off the conservative incumbent earlier this month by more than five percentage points – but crucially failed to reach the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
While Lula is technically on top, it’s fair to say that Bolsonaro has the momentum from defying the pre-first round polls.
[READ MORE: Lula pulls off storyline political comeback to best Bolsonaro – but victory could be hollow for Brazil’s Left]
He won in areas such as Sao Paulo, where voters identified with conservative ideals such as God and family, and of course, comfortably came out ahead in the welathier areas of Brazil.
Bolsonaro went on a tour of the northeast late last week – where he is behind – in a bid to make inroads into Lula’s vote.
But the fact is, for the Brazilian and Global Left, there was no ‘Pink Tide’ moment as has been seen in other South American states.
Professor Daniel Hellinger of Webster University told Redaction Report that there were two reasons why Lula didn’t sweep the vote.
“Polls were not able to capture the Bolsonaro vote in the wealthier and middle sectors of Brazil,” he said.
“It’s similar the Trump phenomena, in this respect.”
It’s now all about turnout, the expert suggested.
Lula is just five points ahead in the polls – and if Bolsonaro defies them to a similar degree later this month, we may see four more years of the dangerous incumbent.
It’s worth noting that the third and fourth most popular candidates in the first round – Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes – have voter bases which lean centre to centre-left.
Both have endorsed Lula in a massive boost to his campaign. Carlos Lupi, the president of Gomes’ PDT, said Brazil will have to choose between “a democrat like Lula” and a “wannabe dictator like Bolsonaro.”
Tebet took aim at Bolsonaro, meanwhile, saying: “Brazil has been abandoned to a bonfire of hatred and disagreements. Denialism delayed the vaccine. Guns replaced books. Iniquity bent hope. Lies have hurt the truth.”
The 8.5million voters won’t all fall in line, but there’s a healthy voter base to draw in for Lula. But it depends who shows up on the day.
Professor Hellinger added: “Among other parties, there should be enough votes to put Lula over top, but we’ll have to see if the centre parties that finished behind turnout their voters.
“There’s a lot of deal making in Brazilian politics, and Lula is not adverse to that.”
And what of a January 6 like insurrection from a defeated Bolsonaro?
“I’m speculating here, but I think Bolsonaro will at least see if he has enough support in the security forces to try something, especially if Lula wins by a narrow margin,” Hellinger mused.
“However, the military in particular now has some large economic stakes and will be hesitant to support him.”
The second round of Brazil’s general election will take place on October 30.
Daniel Hellinger is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Webster University and author of Comparative Politics of Latin America (3rd edition, Routledge)
Featured Image: Alexander Bonilla @Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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