Brazilians go to the polls on Sunday to decide whether incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro can stay in office for a second term. He will face former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010. Here’s what you need to know about elections in South America’s largest country.
Eleven Brazilians are running for president, but according to initial polls, only Bolsonaro and Lula stand a serious chance. The 76-year-old former president seems to be the favourite. Brazilians call it a hard choice – it feels like choosing between two evils.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain who was elected president of Brazil in 2018, has tried in recent years to impose his conservative agenda on the population. He has been criticized for not improving the standard of living in the South American country. He was also criticized several times for the comments he made. They were generally considered sexist and racist.
He hates what he calls “gender ideology” and dismisses the coronavirus as a “little flu” during the pandemic. Moreover, Bolsonaro has been systematically dismantling federal protection for the Amazon rainforest since 2018. This year, fighting corruption, crime, business, and traditional family values are high on his political agenda, as was the case in 2018.
Lula wants to increase social spending
Former president and former union leader Lula promised in the run-up to the elections that he would increase social spending in Brazil if elected. He also wants to give new impetus to the implementation of environmental law in Brazil and to better protect marginalized groups.
While Lula was in power from 2003 to 2010, his rating skyrocketed. The booming economy enabled him to significantly expand the country’s social safety net.
But in the years since he left office, the economy has deteriorated. His handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, was also impeached in 2016 and many of his employees ended up in prison.
Lula himself spent 19 months in prison on corruption charges, which were later dismissed on procedural grounds. These allegations continue to haunt him in the current elections. Many Brazilians are convinced that he bribed justice.
Incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro receives applause at a rally in the run-up to the elections.
Tense atmosphere in the run-up to the elections
In the run-up to the elections, a tense atmosphere arose in Brazil. Right-wing President Bolsonaro has claimed, without evidence, that voting machines are vulnerable to fraud. This raises the question of his supporters’ reaction to the potential defeat. In the United States last year, there was major upheaval when former President Donald Trump claimed he had lost the election due to fraud.
Last week, Lula and Bolsonaro attacked each other fiercely during the last pre-election television debate. Bolsonaro has called former President Lula a “liar”, a “former fraud” and a “gang leader”. Then the leftist politician said Bolsonaro should take a look in the mirror so he could see what was happening inside his government.
Polls open on Sunday at 8 am (time in the capital Brasilia, Netherlands time: 1 pm). They close at 5 pm. The result is expected soon, because the voting will take place digitally. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, that person wins. If it does not, a new round will follow on October 30, in which only the remaining presidential candidates can be voted on.
Voting is compulsory in Brazil. Many Brazilians abroad also have to vote. Brazilians in the Netherlands do not have to vote unless there is a good reason (eg hospitalization). Evidence must always be provided for this. If the Brazilian does not vote, a fine must be paid. If this payment is not made, the abstainer’s accounts will be blocked in Brazil.
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