A Populist Will Win in Brazil. But Left or Right?

Election Sunday will decide between incumbent Bolsonaro and ex-leader da Silva
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 30, 2022 5:38 AM CDT
A Populist Will Win in Brazil. But Left or Right?
A woman holds a banner promoting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during a campaign rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Da Silva faces Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential runoff on Oct. 30.   (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Brazilians vote Sunday in a polarizing presidential runoff election that pits an incumbent vowing to safeguard conservative Christian values against a former president promising to return the country to a more prosperous past, per the AP. The runoff shaped up as a close contest between President Jair Bolsonaro and his political nemesis, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Both are well-known, divisive political figures who stir passion as much as loathing. The vote will determine if the world’s fourth-largest democracy stays the same course of far-right politics or returns a leftist to the top job—and, in the latter case, whether Bolsonaro will accept defeat.

More than 120 million Brazilians are expected to cast ballots, but because the vote is conducted electronically, the final result is usually available within hours after voting stations close in late afternoon. Most opinion polls gave a lead to da Silva, universally known as Lula, though political analysts agreed the race grew increasingly tight in recent weeks. Da Silva has homed in on Bolsonaro’s widely criticized handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and said the president failed to care for society’s neediest members. And he painted Bolsonaro as an opponent of the Amazon rainforest, given that he defanged environmental authorities and presided over a surge in deforestation.

But for many, the record of da Silva’s Workers’ Party is equally off-putting. A sprawling investigation revealed the party's involvement in vast corruption scandals that ensnared top politicians and executives. Da Silva himself was imprisoned for 19 months for corruption and money laundering. The Supreme Court annulled his convictions in 2019, on the grounds that the judge was biased and colluded with prosecutors. That did not stop Bolsonaro from reminding voters of the convictions. Da Silva’s potential election would be like letting a thief return to the scene of the crime, the president warned.

(More Brazil stories.)

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