From Where We Are

Brazilian presidential election leaves citizens with a crucial decision.

Incumbent right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro faced left-wing Luiz Inacio Lula for Brazil’s presidency and now Brazilians must make an important decision for the upcoming run off.

[Flag of Brazil flying with the sky as background]

The first round of elections in Brazil this weekend ended in a stalemate, with no definite winner declared. Far-right incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro surprised many experts and pollsters and performed far better than they had predicted. But former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - known as “Lula!” - still won the most votes. With no clear winner in the first round, a run-off for the presidency of Brazil will be held October 30.

Incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro faced against Luiz Inacio Lula for Brazil’s presidency this past October 2. National polls predicted Lula to win with ease, but Bolsonaro managed to pull in enough votes to narrow the gap to five percentage points. With no candidates getting a clear majority of the votes, the election will be decided with a run off on October 30.

With 212 million people, Brazil is the fourth largest democracy in the world and the tenth largest economy. The sheer size of the country makes this years election a key moment not only in the history of the country, but on how Brazil will interact with the world moving forward.

With Bolsonaro having led Brazil with right Wing policies and Lula having been involved in several scandals during his previous presidency, Carol Wise, a Professor of Political Science and International Relations at USC, believes that the decision Brazilian will have to make is highly polarizing.

CAROL WISE: However, Lula’s looking a lot better than Bolsonaro. Do you want a convicted crook who got off? Or do you want somebody that’s plowing down the environment, denying COVID, eradicating human rights?

This election comes amongst a recent wave of Latin American countries electing left leaning candidates across the board. But Brazil seems to be more torn between the two sides. Wise points out that this division can be attributed to the current divisive political climate that can be seen throughout the world

WISE: Brazil’s problems are not unique in the region. But unfortunately, I think this is the country that has been most influenced at the elite level by Trumpism. And it’s really sad.

However, Abraham Lowenthall, the founding director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, believes that although some might think this is a close race, calling conservatism and Bolsonaro the winners of this first round would be misleading.

ABRAHAM LOWENTHALL: He was 5.2% of the vote behind Lula. And that translated in votes to 6.2 million votes behind. So it’s not like he was on his coattails. I mean, he lost decisively in this round.

On the other hand, Lowenthall believes that if Lula and the liberals achieve victory on October 30th that doesn’t mean that Liberalism in Latin America is a uniform, homogenous block.

LOWENTHALL: I think that would be an overreading of the situation. Now, each of these countries is different and each of these leftist oriented parties and politicians are very different.

However, regardless of the polarizing discussions surrounding these topics, the people that are impacted the most are Brazilians. Most importantly, the lower income classes.

JOAO PEDRO AGUIAR DE SOUZA: Brazil is a very unequal country, replete of inequality.

Joao Pedro Aguiar de Souza is a Brazilian student at USC.

AGUIAR DE SOUZA: And of course, always, no matter if the candidates left, right, center, up or down. The people who are almost always impacted the most are people from lower socioeconomic classes. And that goes without a doubt.

Lower income Brazilians would suffer the most from any violence which some people are afraid off before the October 30 run-off.

Both Brazilian candidates have their baggage. Rodrigo Biolchini, a Brazilian USC student and member of BRASA believes people within the country are voting not for something, but against.

RODRIGO BIOLCHINI: It’s really important to really go deep into the discussion and not be blinded by the like a, A versus B narrative that it’s either this or that. Because in many in many situations, people would vote for Bolsonaro or for Lula because they don’t want to see the other one.

This is a sentiment that can be echoed in democracies around the world.