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After being tempered in prison, Lula “returned”

  Brazil, the largest economy in South America, ushered in the second round of voting in the presidential election on October 30 local time. The 77-year-old challenger and leader of the left-wing Labor Party Lula narrowly won with 50.9% of the vote, ahead of the far-right incumbent President Bo Sonaro 1.8 percent.
  The general election is considered to be the most violent and divisive election in Brazil since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985 and the implementation of democratic direct elections. Despite nine other contenders for the presidency, 92 percent of voters voted for either Lula or Bolsonaro in the first round, with no third-line candidate challenging either.
  After winning the runoff by a narrow margin, Lula, the “left-wing icon” who returned after 12 years, will have to face a right-leaning Congress and take over a country with weak economic growth, widespread hunger and a precarious nature.
Lula plays nostalgia

  ”They tried to bury me alive, and here I stand.” After being elected the new Brazilian president, Lula delivered a victory speech, describing the victory as his political “resurrection.” After decades of ups and downs in the political arena, his signature curly hair and beard have become thin and gray. The hoarse voice is the imprint of the “old smoker”‘s life-and-death battle with throat cancer, and it sounds even more muddy after months of tossing and turning campaign rallies.
  Lula was born in a slum in northeastern Brazil and dropped out of school to work at the age of 12. He polished shoes, worked as a worker, and lost his left little finger in a work accident.
  This is Lula’s sixth presidential election. From 1989 to 1998, he ran for election three times, all of which failed. Lula won elections for the first time in 2002, after shifting to a more centrist image as a radical workers’ leader. In 2006, he was successfully re-elected.
  The commodity super cycle in the first decade of the 21st century brought abundant fiscal revenue to the Lula government, and also laid the economic foundation for its implementation of social welfare programs such as “Zero Hunger” and “Family Grants”. During Lula’s two terms, Brazil’s people’s livelihood improved, the economy took off, the gap between the rich and the poor was steadily narrowed, 20 million people were lifted out of poverty, the unemployment rate fell to a historical low, and the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) tripled.
  According to a poll released by the Brazilian polling agency Datafolha, when his term ended in 2011, Lula’s support rate was as high as 83%, making him one of the most popular politicians in Brazilian history.
  However, an anti-corruption storm sweeping the Brazilian political arena caused Lula to fall from the altar. He was the subject of an investigation by Operation Car Wash in 2014. The largest anti-corruption investigation in Brazil’s history revealed illegal “kickback-for-contract” deals between the state-owned company Petrobras, political elites and various construction contractors. In July 2017, Lula was charged with money laundering and corruption and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. In 2018, the court upheld the first-instance conviction and extended the sentence to 12 years and one month. Lula has always denied the allegations, but after losing his appeal, he turned himself in and served time in prison.

  After winning the run-off by a narrow margin, Lula, the “left-wing icon” who returned after 12 years, will have to face a right-leaning Congress and take over a country with weak economic growth, widespread hunger and a precarious nature.

  Before stepping into the cell, Lula predicted that Brazil would return to him sooner or later, “The strong can kill one, two, three roses, but they cannot prevent the coming of spring.”
  Although in prison, Lula Stay active. He gives interviews and hosts friends from around the world, with former European Parliament president Martin Schulz and French leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon both on the visitor list.
  Lula spent 580 days and nights in a cell of 15 square meters until the court approved his release. In 2021, Brazil’s Supreme Court revoked Lula’s charges due to jurisdictional issues, biased judges’ judgments, and other reasons, allowing him to regain his right to run for public office.
  In an interview with The Economist, Lula said, “They decided to convict me so that I could not run in the 2018 election because they knew that I would win the election.” The Wall Street Journal editorial pointed out that although Lula was released and maintained his innocence, but in reality “he never got his innocence in court because he never got a retrial”.
  On May 7, Lula announced his candidacy plan to thousands of live supporters at a rally in Sao Paulo, shouting “I’m back” and “I will rebuild Brazil.” Although his image has been tarnished by the corruption scandal, Lula retains a strong appeal among Brazil’s poorest, trade unionists and most intellectual and cultural figures. A number of polls show that voters give Lula higher marks than Bolsonaro in terms of the economy, environmental protection, and protection of the rights and interests of blacks, women and sexual minorities (LGBTQ). Unlike previous passionate and impromptu speeches, Lula, dressed in a dark suit, read the speech according to the scriptures in front of the podium. His words were flat, with no cadence in his tone. According to Lula’s team, this surprising restraint is intentional. The goal of the rally was to create Lula’s image as the “father of the nation,” showing that he can bridge divisions across party lines.
  Lula has built a center-left coalition of 10 parties to rival Bolsonaro. Alkmin, who belongs to the center-right Socialist Party of Brazil, became Lula’s electoral partner, and the two were rivals in the 2006 election. Media analysis pointed out that this combination demonstrates Lula’s moderate style and flexibility in building a broad alliance and uniting a “deeply divided” country.
  Against the background of the impact of the new crown epidemic and the economic downturn, nostalgia has become Lula’s most powerful campaign weapon. In various campaign activities and interviews, the former president constantly reviewed his good macroeconomic performance and people’s livelihood policies during his eight-year administration, which inspired voters’ fond memories and yearning for his previous two terms. Lula also continued to fight for the poor, promising to reduce inflation, reform the tax system, raise the minimum wage, and actively create employment opportunities after taking office.
  Like Bolsonaro, Lula also opposes a constitutional cap on fiscal spending growth. In Lula’s view, social spending is an investment rather than a cost. “When the poor stop being very poor and become consumers of health, education and goods, the whole economy grows.”
Bolsonaro chases all the way

  Four years ago, Lula and Bolsonaro “should have had a war”. In 2018, Lula led all the polls in the early stage of the election with a guilty body, until the Brazilian electoral court disqualified him from running for the election, and Bolsonaro, who regarded himself as an “outsider”, was the only candidate with no corruption record at that time. With the economy declining year after year and corruption cases emerging one after another, Bolsonaro seized on the “anti-labor party” sentiment that was spreading in Brazilian society at that time, and made promises of economic liberalization and anti-corruption, and suddenly emerged in the election.

  But since he took office, many of Bolsonaro’s sons have been accused of corruption. He himself has parted ways with Moro, a star minister known for his anti-corruption efforts, and the “Car Wash Action” working group has also been disbanded. After frequent occurrence of such incidents, the image advantage of the aforementioned “clear water politicians” no longer exists.
  Since the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, Bolsonaro’s response measures have been criticized. From downplaying the impact of the epidemic, refusing to wear masks, promoting unproven hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the new crown, and delaying the purchase and distribution of vaccines, the improper handling of the epidemic has made Brazil the country with the second highest death toll from the new crown in the world.
  On the environment, conservationists describe Bolsonaro as a “plague”: His deregulatory environmental policies have led to a surge in deforestation in the Amazon region, killing nearly 40,000 square kilometers of tropical forests by the end of the year. Rainforests will be razed to the ground.
  On the economic issue that voters are most concerned about, Minister of Economy Guedes reformed pensions, strengthened the independence of the central bank and carried out a series of reforms to facilitate business, which was well received by the business community. However, under the pressure of multiple factors such as the new crown epidemic, the Ukraine crisis, and the Fed’s interest rate hikes, Brazil’s inflation has remained at double-digit highs for a long time, and the number of hungry people has almost doubled in the past two years to about 33 million people. Luo’s economic report card is overshadowed.
  In this election campaign, most polls show Lula continuing to lead. On September 29, a number of polling agencies predicted that Lula would win in the first round, defeating Bolsonaro by 10 to 14 percentage points. However, the vote counting results on October 2 showed that Bolsonaro’s performance far exceeded poll expectations. The gap between him and Lula was only 5.2 percentage points, and Lula also failed to gain more than half of the votes. Drag into “overtime”. As the election campaign prolongs, Lula’s poll lead over Bolsonaro has gradually narrowed. On the eve of the second round of voting, polls by agencies such as Datafolha and Quaest said Lula would receive 52% of the effective vote, narrowing the gap with Bolsonaro to 4 percentage points.
  There are many explanations for Bolsonaro’s tenacious pursuit. The Bolsonaro government increased welfare subsidies in July this year, perhaps attracting a group of the poorest voters. Although Brazil’s fiscal situation is already in jeopardy, Bolsonaro successfully persuaded Congress to bypass constitutional restrictions on fiscal spending and allocate 26 billion reais ($4.8 billion) for the “Brazil Aid” plan, which will be paid to the most Cash handouts for the poor increased from 400 reais to 600 reais (about $100). In addition, due to factors such as the rebound in commodity prices, Brazil’s economic performance was better than expected. In the second quarter of this year, the GDP grew by 1.2% from the previous quarter, the inflation index fell to single digits, and the unemployment rate dropped, which objectively helped Bolsonaro recover some lost popular support.
  In the congressional elections held on October 2, Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party became the biggest winner, winning 13 of the 27 seats in the Senate and jumping to 99 seats in the 513-seat House of Representatives. Among the 23 parties in the new Congress, the Liberal Party is the largest party. Bolsonaro’s allies also fared better than expected in the gubernatorial election. In the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest vote base and the industrial capital, De Freitas, who served as the infrastructure minister in the Bolsonaro government, won 42.3% of the votes in the first round of voting, leading the Labor Party candidate Ada supported by Lula by 6.7% percent. In Rio de Janeiro, a key swing state, Castro, a member of the Liberal Party, won an overwhelming victory in the first round with 58% of the vote and was re-elected. He then stated that he would support Bolsonaro.
  ”Lula was expecting an easy win,” a close friend of Lula told the French newspaper Le Monde. Facing the pressing Bolsonaro, the pragmatist old president had to act more actively. He promised that his government “will not be limited to the Labor Party” and changed the campaign color from red to white; Opposes abortion, although in April he argued it was a public health issue; his team has given up on reasoning, accusing Bolsonaro of being a cannibal and a pedophile online in response to rude opponents who smear him as a Satanist .
A new challenge for an old president

  Before the general election, Lula had stated on many occasions that if elected president, he would not seek re-election in the future. He will officially take office on January 1, 2023, starting his third and final term as president.
  Lula’s victory this time means that Brazil will bid farewell to the Bolsonaro government’s disastrous climate policy and become an environmentally responsible country again.
  During Lula’s first two terms, Brazil reduced the deforestation rate in the Amazon region by more than 70%, and cooperated with the United Nations to promote developed countries to provide financial support for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Returning this time, Lula stated that he will fight against environmental crimes such as illegal logging, and is committed to achieving net zero deforestation and the emission reduction goals of the Paris Agreement. Silva, who resigned as environment minister after clashes with Lula in 2008, announced his support for Lula’s candidacy in September. Silva explained that the two settled their feud because Lula promised to implement her environmental policies, including the introduction of carbon pricing, the issuance of new financial incentives for sustainable agriculture and the creation of a “national climate change authority”. to ensure compliance with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  On the economic level, Lula’s supporters hope that he can turn the tide and repeat the prosperity of the 4.5% annual economic growth during the previous administration.
  The Brazilian economy has been in recession since 2014. In 2022, due to the rise in commodity prices caused by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the recovery of consumer demand in the domestic market and the increase in export demand in the international market, many economic indicators in Brazil will improve. However, the Brazilian media pointed out that the favorable conditions of the Brazilian economy this year will not be repeated next year. When Lula takes office, the economy will face more uncertainties: high interest rates, unsustainable government public finances and a more pessimistic global environment .
  In 2016, in response to the serious problem of government financial overspending, a bill to set a cap on the Brazilian government’s public spending passed through Congress. The bill stipulates that before 2025, the federal government’s budget growth shall not exceed the inflation rate of the previous year, otherwise it will be considered unconstitutional.
  During his tenure, Bolsonaro bypassed this limit with a new constitutional amendment to fund his huge social welfare program. Lula also expressed the hope that this cap will be completely overturned. But what some economists care about and question is “where does the money come from?”
  A sustainable economic growth model is an important guarantee for the government to increase tax revenue and expand fiscal revenue. The British “Financial Times” pointed out that due to problems such as insufficient infrastructure and backward basic education, it is difficult for Brazil to increase productivity and achieve long-term economic growth. The left-wing Labor Party government tried to reverse the premature “de-industrialization” trend and achieve industrial upgrading between 2003 and 2016, but it failed in the end. The long-term decline of industry, the proportion of GDP has been declining year by year, and even offset the growth contribution of agribusiness.
  The Financial Times pointed out that Lula and Bolsonaro focused on increasing public spending and lacked ideas on how to increase productivity. To address the structural problems that constrain Brazil’s economic development, radical political and economic reforms are needed. In Brazil, where there are many parties and complex interests, even for the long-sleeved and skilled Lula, it is still a very difficult problem.
  There is a more pressing threat at hand. According to a survey by the Political Election Violence Observatory of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has registered 214 cases of violence against politicians in the first half of this year, compared to 47 cases in the same period in 2019. In July of this year, a supporter of Lula and a former finance employee of the Labor Party was shot and killed by supporters of Bolsonaro when he held a birthday party in Iguazu City.
  Bolsonaro is considered a facilitator of these political violence. The number of guns in private hands has doubled to nearly 2 million since 2018, according to data from the think tank Sou da Paz (I Support Peace) under Bolsonaro’s tenure. In addition, he has repeatedly accused, without evidence, of rampant fraud in Brazil’s electronic voting system. Bolsonaro claimed that the 2018 hacking incident affected the voting results, otherwise he would have won the election with a greater advantage. But an investigation by Brazil’s High Electoral Court pointed out that the hacking did not cause any damage to the security of the electronic voting system, which has not been systematically fraudulent since it was put into use in 1996.
  In view of the fact that Bolsonaro, known as the “Brazilian version of Trump”, has repeatedly hinted that if he loses the election, he will challenge the election results, and even called on supporters to sacrifice their lives “for freedom”. A movement may be brewing.

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