Lula narrowly won the Brazilian elections this Sunday, according to the Superior Electoral Court, and returns to power after beating Jair Bolsonaro in a fight between ideological antagonists that divided the largest democracy in Latin America.
Lula won by the narrowest margin in Brazilian history since 1989, when democracy was restored after the end of the dictatorship.
With him the left returns to power in Brazil and ends the most right-wing government in decades.
With more than 99% of the scrutiny, Lula added 50.84% of the votes to 49.16% for Bolsonaro, the first president who has not been re-elected since the possibility of a second term was approved in 1997.
The Court considered Lula the winner when the election was “mathematically defined.”
Hours after Lula’s victory was confirmed, Bolsonaro remained silent. During the campaign, it was questioned whether he would accept a defeat, but some of his allies already ruled out this Sunday that the president does not recognize the results.
In the first round, at the beginning of the month, the current president had obtained an initial advantage during the count that his rival later recovered, something that was repeated this Sunday.
That’s because votes from the northeast, Lula’s stronghold, are counted later.
The leftist Lula surpassed the rightist Bolsonaro by more than two million votes and thus returns to the power he held from 2003 to 2010 and after spending 19 months in prison for corruption.
He was released by the Federal Supreme Court, which in 2021 annulled his convictions for errors in the processes and lack of impartiality of Judge Sergio Moro.
Nostalgia of the past
This Sunday’s election took place in a climate of tension due to the polarization between two antagonistic candidates and in a political battle between the left and the right.
Bolsonaro, a 67-year-old ex-military man, was seeking presidential re-election by appealing to ultra-conservative right-wing values, while his rival, Lula, was a trade unionist and is one of the great representatives of the Latin American left.
Lula overcame the doubts generated by the past of corruption that surrounded his years in government, which, however, are remembered by many with nostalgia for the good economic figures and the social policies that he implemented.
The result marks a defeat, albeit narrowly, for Bolsonaro’s far-right populism, which in 2018 forged a novel conservative coalition but lost support after Brazil had one of the worst death tolls from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Lula has promised to return to the state-led economic growth and social policies that helped lift millions out of poverty when he ruled Brazil for eight years.
He left behind an emerging Brazil that had discovered large oil reserves and was chosen to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Now he faces a less favorable economic environment and will have to manage it in a very polarized climate and a country divided into two halves, as evidenced by how close this Sunday’s election was.
Lula promised this Sunday to unite a divided country and invited international cooperation to preserve the Amazon rainforest.
The new electoral success of Lula, who came to politics from trade unionism and after a childhood in poverty that made him connect with the most popular classes, is largely due to the sweet memory that many Brazilians have of the years in which he was president, which contrast with the harsh crises that followed.
During their governments, Brazil experienced an economic boom driven by the high prices of raw materials. Millions of people came out of poverty and rose to the middle class with assistance and educational programs from the State.
In 2011, Lula left the presidency with an approval rating above 80%.
Benchmark for the Latin American left
Lula was a benchmark for the Latin American left, considered more attached to the rules of liberal democracy than “Bolivarian” leaders such as then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Universities around the world distinguished him as an honorary doctor and the former US president, Barack Obama, defined him in the past as “the most popular politician in the world.”
Then came the corruption scandals, for which he was in jail until his sentences were suspended, which allowed him to return to the political arena.
The left resorted to the charismatic and controversial figure of Lula to confront Bolsonaro’s right, which is going to remain a great opposition force since his party is the one with the greatest presence in Congress.
Left-wing presidents of the region such as Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico), Alberto Fernández (Argentina), Gabriel Boric (Chile) or Gustavo Petro (Colombia) congratulated the president-elect on Sunday.
“Your victory opens a new time for the history of Latin America. A time of hope and future that begins today, “said Fernández.