March 25, 2023

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Everything you need to know about Brazil’s heated presidential election

Everything you need to know about Brazil’s heated presidential election / Photo: YouTube video capture

Brazilians go to the polls on Sunday to vote in one of the most watched elections in the world this year.

In Brazil, current right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro will face former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

All seats in the country’s lower house and 27 state and district legislatures, all governorships and one-third of Brazil’s Senate seats will also be up for grabs.

Who are the candidates?

Although there are 11 candidates in the presidential election, polls suggest that only Bolsonaro and Lula have a real chance of winning.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain elected in 2018, has tried to impose his conservative agenda in Latin America’s largest country but has drawn criticism for failing to improve living standards and for comments widely viewed as as sexist and racist.

He eschews what he calls “gender ideology” and dismissed the coronavirus as “a little flu”. The president has systematically dismantled federal measures to protect the Amazon forest. He also baselessly attacked the reliability of Brazil’s electronic voting system, while raising doubts about whether he would accept defeat peacefully.

Lula, a former union leader who ruled Brazil from 2003 to 2010, has pledged to revive the lavish social spending programs that marked his first term, while strengthening environmental enforcement and better protecting marginalized groups.

While in power, Lula’s approval rating skyrocketed as he took advantage of a booming economy to dramatically expand Brazil’s social safety net. But in the years since he left office, the economy tanked, his hand-picked successor was impeached, and many of his associates went to prison. Lula himself spent 19 months in prison on corruption charges that were later dismissed on procedural grounds.

How it all works

Polling stations open at 8:00 AM Brazilian time (11:00 GMT) and close at 5:00 PM. Due to the electronic nature of the vote, the results will appear quickly, probably a few hours after the polls close.

If no candidate clears the 50% threshold needed to win outright, the top two candidates – likely Lula and Bolsonaro – will go to a runoff on October 30.

Who is supposed to win

All major polls have the former president leading by at least 8 percentage points, although some indicate a much larger lead. A poll by the polling institute IPEC, published on Monday, shows him with a lead of about 17 points.

But major polls are split on whether Lula has the votes needed to achieve the majority needed to win in the first round.

Another issue is voter turnout. While Lula’s support base is wider, there are indications that Bolsonaro’s base is more enthusiastic.


Political violence is on the rise in Brazil

Several supporters of Lula – and at least one supporter of Bolsonaro – have been killed because of their political preferences in recent months.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly said he may not accept an election defeat, while maintaining that the military is on his side. Most analysts see a military coup in the event of a Bolsonaro defeat as unlikely, but many fear a period of prolonged political violence and economic disruption.

Gun ownership has risen dramatically under Bolsonaro, while rank-and-file police officers tend to support the president politically — a potentially volatile mix, according to Reuters.

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