Lula Da Silva’s Presidential Victory in Brazil Ignites Election Denial & Insurrection
On October 30, 2022, Former left-wing President Luiz Lula da Silva returned to Brazil’s political sphere and beat incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro by a slim margin in the presidential elections. The results were close, with Lula’s ultimate victory by 50.9% of the popular vote, and Bolsonaro’s loss by 49.1% of the vote.
The former president, known by his supporters as Lula, is a member of Brazil’s left-wing Workers Party and was president for seven years from 2003 to 2010. Throughout his presidency, he was able to maintain an 80% approval rating across the nation among younger and older citizens. In 2016, Lula was under investigation by the Brazilian government for his alleged involvement in receiving secret campaign funds from state-owned oil and petrol companies. In 2018, Lula was sentenced to 12 years by the federal region court. However, in November 2019, the Supreme Court ruled for his release as the former judge carrying out his case, Sergio Moro, was found to have been impartial throughout the case and worked with prosecutors during the investigation to charge Lula. Thus, the judge’s role in the case led it to be dismissed because the initial corruption charges were labeled politically motivated without true evidence. Bolsonaro soon placed Moro as his justice minister, displaying an unjust legal procedure that occurred during Lula’s case.
Many of Bolsonaro’s supporters come from rural and poor areas of Brazil that are predominantly controlled by de facto citizen authorities (e.g., gang organizations in the favelas - shanty towns of Brazil). In a typical community, these authorities act as local militias, attempting to persuade their communities to vote for the candidate that is supported by the local militias. Many citizens of these communities voted for Bolsonaro in fear of being harmed. President Bolsonaro’s support also stems primarily from evangelical Christians who see Lula as a threat to the country’s “moral values” due to his more progressive approach in the discussion of LGBTQ+ rights, sex education, and socialist programs. As a former army captain, Bolsonaro promised his supporters to make Brazil a nationalist nation and criminalize abortion, limit transgender rights, and expand a more capitalist economy by “privatizing state companies.” Bolsonaro’s great right-wing messaging has been labeled as the “Bolsonarismo” movement.
On the other hand, Lula has been able to regain support from citizens who approved of his past presidency and of young people seeking progressive changes in the country. Lula has promised his supporters he will focus on fixing certain parts of the economic sector causing inflation. His focus is on increasing a tax on the rich and limiting corporations from abusing the natural resources of the Amazons. Furthermore, Lula seeks to improve the hunger crisis through debt forgiveness, social housing, and others.
Despite the large difference in political ideology, Brazil is split nearly in half with support for both candidates. After the election, Bolsonaro gave no public appearance or comment on the results. His first appearance was two days after the election in Alvarado Palace in Brasilia, where he gave a short 2-minute speech thanking all the citizens who voted for him and indirectly stating he would abide by the constitution to have a peaceful transition of power. However, during a separate public appearance, Bolsonaro refused to name Lula as the next president and did not comment on his loss. Bolsonaro’s short open-ended message, in combination with his pre-election rhetoric invalidating the legitimacy of the electronic voting machines, led many of his supporters to take to the streets to protest the election results. This caused great protests among truckers in particular, one of Bolsonaro’s biggest demographic of supporters. The truckers quickly created road blockages throughout Brazil’s major cities and specifically targeted the main highway leading to the Sao Palo airport, causing many flights to be canceled. Moreover, extreme right-wing supporters called the results of the election the instigation of the next “civil war,” urging Bolsonaro to invoke article 142 of the Federal Constitution to declare military intervention to ensure his victory before his term ended.
Despite the various early protests after the elections, Brazil’s Defense Ministry declared the election results as legitimate and stated there was no evidence of fraudulent activity during the election. Therefore, Luiz Lula da Silva’s inauguration was carried out as planned on January 1, 2023.
However, days after the inauguration on January 8, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro’s right-wing supporters stormed Brazil’s Supreme Court, Congress, and the presidential office. Although the government buildings were vacant due to being closed after the inauguration, Bolsonaro supporters saw it as an opportunity to demand Lula step down as the new president. Many of the ways the right-wing groups organized the attack have been compared to those of the January 6th insurrection in the United States. The outside of the government buildings was destroyed and vandalized, supporters carried large Brazilian flags and wore the country’s color, and all similarly believed that the election was “stolen” from Bolsonaro. Misinformation on the actual results of the Brazilian elections has spread rapidly since Lula’s win and has been fueled by Bolsonaro himself, who stated the election was “rigged.” Nevertheless, President Lula announced that the security forces did not act accordingly to protect Brazil’s capitol and that all who participated in the insurrection would be punished on charges of rebellion. During and after the insurrection, Bolsonaro was seen in Florida, where he commented on the insurrection by expressing he did not incite the violence that led to the events on January 8.
Even with the occurrence of this major attack days into Lula’s presidency, political figures like Joe Biden have come out since the inauguration in support of Lula and his new administration. As he grows into his tenure as President, Lula’s term will be observed closely as he attempts to contain the extreme right and lead Brazil to a more left-wing future.