A few hours after the voting centers open their doors throughout Brazil this Sunday, the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, and the former president and also candidate Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva rush their last options to try to unbalance an election in their favor that are expected to be specially adjusted, a detail that, in the case of two antagonistic characters, highlights the strong polarization of the country.
According to the latest data released this week by the Ipec Institute and the GGlobe GroupLula, with 50% of the intention to vote, is seven points ahead of Bolsonaro, who has 43%, figures that have remained relatively stable in recent weeks and that, taking into account the margin of error, could result in a long night of voting on October 30.
It is a panorama, therefore, uncertain; but also unexpected.
When Lula officially announced his return to the forefront of politics as a presidential candidate for the Workers’ Party (PT), after having been imprisoned for corruption and have been finally exonerated by Justice, accumulated more than 15 percentage points of advantage over the current president. At that time, few predicted a second round.
But then the vote of last October 2 arrived and, against all odds, neither Lula achieved an absolute majority, nor did Bolsonaro have problems getting to the next round. The socialist ended up reaping 48.43% of the votes, while the conservative leader passed the cut with 43.20%. That is why many Brazilians ask themselves, how has this situation come about?
Election by rejection
Many attribute Bolsonaro’s step forward in the first round to the fact that this is an election in which voters are primarily motivated by “rejection.”
“This is an election of rejection, not of choosing the one who represents one’s best ideals,” he told Associated Press Thiago de Aragão, director of strategy for the political analysis group Arko Advice.
“Most of Bolsonaro’s supporters do not necessarily love Bolsonaro, nor do they support him, but they hate Lula more. And vice versa. They are two of the most rejected politicians in the history of Brazil”, said De Aragão.
Precisely in an attempt to increase his voter base, in April, Lula announced that his former adversary, the center-right politician Geraldo Alckmin, would be his running mate.
This is a choice of rejection, not of choosing the one who represents one’s best ideals.”
For his part, Bolsonaro has solid support from the evangelical electorate, which was already key in his 2018 electoral victory. However, the current president, who was raised Catholic and baptized in the Jordan River by an evangelical pastor during a visit to Israel before his arrival at the Planalto Palace, has lost some support in recent times.
Lula took advantage of the situation to launch the “letter to the evangelicals” in mid-October, a manifesto with which he sought to placate the aversion of that powerful electorate. Bolsonaro did not hesitate to respond by supporting an intense campaign on social networks with messages such as that Lula communicates with the devil; one more episode in the torrent of disinformation that frames the elections.
Image and disinformation
The image, without a doubt, will be one of the key points of these elections. And that is something that both candidates know perfectly well. While Bolsonaro questions the honesty of his opponent, Lula portrays the leader of the Liberal Party as a person lacking in humanity.
“We say yes to private property. We respect the men who work in the fields. We believe in the right to self-defense. This is the country we want, not a country of thieves,” Bolsonaro snapped at Lula during the debate of last October 17in clear reference to the corruption scandals that have ended up overshadowing Lula’s presidency, from 2003 to 2011.
Lula’s reply, referring to the thousands of Brazilians who died in the pandemic: “You did not want to understand the suffering of the public.”
This personal animosity that both profess worries many analysts, who fear that the antagonism, in an environment heated by disinformationcould lead to an institutional crisis.
Along the same lines as his political mentor and friend, the American Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has been accusing the polling companies of “lying” in the polls for months and sowing doubts about the security of the voting process. Such has been his insistence that even the Superior Electoral Court has had to take action on the matter on several occasions to convey security around the process.
The election in the first round was carried out with credibility, with transparency”
In fact, this very week, the agency Reuters reported that the TSE is preparing for Bolsonaro to challenge a possible victory for his opponent, which could mobilize demonstrations, according to people familiar with the court’s preparations who requested anonymity to share the information.
On Friday, the spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, also wanted to express Washington’s total confidence in the electoral process of the South American giant. “The election in the first round was carried out with credibility, with transparency, and the people of Brazil, the United States and countries around the world have full confidence that Brazil will be able to hold the second round and the final round of the election. way,” he assured at a press conference.
On the other hand, allies of Lula have resorted to a 2016 video in which then-deputy Bolsonaro stated that he would commit cannibalism during a visit to an indigenous tribe. Electoral authorities banned the campaign video.
“The nature of electoral misinformation has changed over the last month. Before the first round of voting, it was mainly about Bolsonaro and his supporters using electoral denial tactics,” commented this week to voice of america Philip Friedrich, a technology and elections research analyst at Freedom House.
The expert considers that “now” the different “narratives” are focusing on “sensationalist, decontextualized and potentially harmful statements.”
“For example, that Lula is associated with Satan and Bolsonaro embraces cannibalism,” he concluded.
question of popularity
There is no doubt that these are very personal elections, in which, beyond the electoral program, voters will decide based on the candidate.
In this sense, Bolsonaro, as the current president of Brazil, faces the difficulty of having to be held accountable for his four years in office marked by his controversial handling of the pandemic, but also by the reduction of violence in the country. The portal Violence Monitorfrom the Globe group, Registration in the first three months of the year a 6% decrease in homicides in Brazil. In all of 2021, the reduction was 7%.
Despite this, according to data of Datafolha, barely 38% of Brazilians approve of Bolsonaro’s management. On the contrary, 39% disapproves directly.
Against this, there is the figure of Lula da Silva, who after lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty, still had high popularity ratings when he left the Planalto Palace in 2011. However, that popularity has been sifted by the investigations of the Lava Jato scandal and multiple cases of corruption in his government that over the years have ended up uncovering.
This perception of both leaders that the Brazilian people have is evident in a fact -again from Datafolha– that both share, 27%. In the case of Bolsonaro, that figure represents the number of Brazilians who will vote for the current president “because of his image”, while in the case of Lula that figure is equivalent to the number of voters who say they will support him “because of his social agenda.” ”.
In short, they are elections that are not only tight, but also extremely polarized, in which, beyond the political agenda, what is at stake is the way of understanding Brazil; that is, the future of the nation.
[Con la colaboración de los periodistas de VOA Graham Keeley y Salomé Ramírez Vargas, desde Washington DC, e información de AP y Reuters]
Connect with the Voice of America! Subscribe to our channel Youtube and turn on notifications, or follow us on social networks: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.