The Brazilian electoral verdict offers a significant check to an accelerated right-wing turn for democracies across the world
The election that was marred by unbelievable acrimonies between the supporters of two candidates of sharply opposite ideologies and identities was one of the closest elections in decades.
Yet, fulfilling many of these agendas will not be so easy. The magnitude of the challenges for Lula’s new term are huge. He faces an ever-slowing economy, which was further affected by the pandemic and global economic slowdown. His earlier stints (2003-2010) that saw a record 25 million people being lifted out of grinding poverty were largely funded by the commodity boom and high global economic growth. He is inheriting an economy which is expected to grow less than 1 percent (0.6 percent as per the forecast by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Second, he is going to govern a much different Brazil. During his previous stints, between 2003 and 2010, the Brazilian society and polity were less divided, thus helping him to form broader social coalitions to support many of his path-breaking social policies such as Bosla Familia (conditional cash transfer program). However, since the astonishing rise of far-right groups under Bolsonaro, nearly half of Brazilian society is very hostile and inimically opposed to everything that Lula and his pro-poor Workers Party stand for. So much so, even Bolsonaro’s anti-LGBT and anti-climate policies including destruction of the Amazon’s rainforest were endorsed by his core conservative supporters. “Beef, Bible and Bullets” have emerged as the key conservative agenda in the last few years and enjoys strong support within a sizeable section of the Brazilian population. In fact, Bolsonaro’s four-year stint was marked by major reversal and under-funding of many of the core social policies initiated under Lula. Thus, the third stint would significantly test Lula’s skills as a coalition builder and unifier.
Following Donald Trump’s script, Bolsonaro and his millions of hardcore supporters called into question the media, the election process particularly its electronic voting system, and the electoral management by the Superior Electoral Court as well as made threats to use the military.
Finally, the most serious challenge for Lula would come from Bolsonaro and his conservative coalitions. He might have lost the presidency, but his conservative coalition has won in several states and dominates in the Congress. Thus, Bolsonaro’s hardcore supporters within the government and outside would fiercely oppose any expansion of pro-poor leftist policies, and any eventual overturn of conservative agendas. One might witness the kind of vicious opposition faced by Lula’s protégé and President Dilma Rousseff leading to her unceremonious impeachment in 2016. However, Lula is no Dilma Rousseff. Those who have been tracking this metal worker’s astonishing political rise from the back of grinding poverty and structural disadvantages know well his ability to build bridges across coalitions. Not only does he leads multiple workers’ coalitions and left-centric organisations, during his previous stints, he was able to form broad-based coalitions, including the middle class, which supported his transformative and pro-poor social policies. Another strength that Lula can derive this time is the existence of major Left governments in the region, which can come handy in terms of ideological support and economic cooperation. However, it is still very early to see how things would unfold in Brazil and much of Latin America. Nonetheless, the Brazilian electoral verdict offers a significant check to an accelerated right-wing turn for democracies and rising authoritarianism across all regions of the world.
However, since the astonishing rise of far-right groups under Bolsonaro, nearly half of Brazilian society is very hostile and inimically opposed to everything that Lula and his pro-poor Workers Party stand for.
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Niranjan Sahoo, PhD, is a Senior Fellow with ORF’s Governance and Politics Initiative. With years of expertise in governance and public policy, he now anchors ...Read More +