Brazilian Presidential Election: Bolsonaro v Silva Decided By 0.9%

Crowd with hundreds of people holding signs, Brazilian flags, and wearing Brazilian colors. in the middle there is a giant brazilian flag.

REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Crowd of Jair Bolsonaro supports protesting against president elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Miles Salvi

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonar in the presidential runoff in Brazil. After a nail-biting election, neither da Silva nor Bolsonaro had enough votes to win. They then went to a runoff where da Silva won with 50.9% of the vote.


On October 2nd people from all over Brazil Cast their votes. At the end of the general election, Bolsonaro won 43.2% of the vote and was just behind da Silva, who had gained 48.43 % of the vote. Under Brazil’s election laws, if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, there will be a second round to determine the winner. Since neither Bolsonaro nor da Silva reached 50% of the vote, there was a runoff scheduled for October 30th. With Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party winning a majority in the Brazilian Federal Senate and Chamber of Deputies, most people thought that the liberal party’s momentum would take him over the finish line but instead, da Silva held on to finish just ahead of Bolsonaro, 50.9% to 49.1%.


This election has an effect on everyone in the world because of Brazil’s greatest resource, the Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon helps to stabilize the climate. Around 83 billion tons of carbon is stored in the Amazon rainforest. The trees in the Amazon also release 22 billion tons of water into the atmosphere per day, playing a critical role in global and regional carbon and water cycles.


Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is a leftist member of the Workers’ Party. This was the former union leader’s 6th presidential campaign. He was also an extremely popular president, serving from 2003 to 2010, leaving office with an 83% approval rating after his work to help impoverished families. This Victory is a major comeback after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2017 for corruption and money laundering. He was released in 2019 after the Supreme Court ruled that he did not receive due process. Da Silva has insisted throughout this election that he is not Bolsonaro, who has been a point of controversy at home and abroad.  His approval rating was just 38% coming into the election.


Jair Bolsonaro is a far-right member of the Liberal Party. He is a retired military officer who was elected on the promise to bring back law and order. His main supporters have been evangelical Christians, business people, and rural landowners. While in office, he has cut taxes, increased support for the military, relaxed gun ownership laws, and weakened environmental regulations. About the only thing the candidates can agree on is the support of the impoverished people in the country. Bolsonaro has, like da Silva, enacted measures to help Brazil’s poorest.


Some of the main issues at stake during this election were the economy, public health, corruption, crime, and education. Brazil’s economy took a nose dive during the pandemic and was hurt even more due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Public health was such a concern because Bolsonaro botched the pandemic. President Bolsonaro spread disinformation about Covid-19 opposed social distancing, and routinely shook hands with people at his rallies. A report that was put out by the Brazilian senate even said that it was Bolsonaro’s goal to have as many people as possible contract Covid, so they could reach herd immunity even faster. Covid ended up killing over 688,000 Brazilians.  Corruption was another hot topic because da Silva was running again even after being convicted of corruption.  Bolsonaro hammered that point across throughout the entire election.


The two candidates also had very different views on foreign policy. Bolsonaro has broken with the country’s former presidents and embraced an anti-globalist way of thinking. He has blamed international organizations for jeopardizing Brazil’s sovereignty, distanced the country from the United Nations, and threatened to withdraw from the World Health Organization and the Paris Agreement on climate change. He has also distanced Brazil from long-time allies Cuba and Venezuela to form closer relationships with like-minded leaders such as former U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In comparison, da Silva has promised to return Brazil to its historic role as a supporter of regional institutions. Most people say that now that da Silva has won, Brazil will align itself closer to the US and European Union and return to its role as a regional powerhouse in foreign affairs.  


Since the election was called, there have been many protests and riots throughout Brazil. There were 565 blockades on highways throughout the country, and some citizens were calling for the military to step in and stop the transition. President Bolsonaro went completely silent for two days after the election was called and has still failed to admit defeat. Bolsonaro’s Vice President Hamilton Mourão has come out and accepted defeat, saying, “There is no point in crying anymore, we lost the game.” He also made his opposition to the pro-Bolsonaro protests clear. He said, “There are 58 million people who are unhappy, (people who voted for Bolsonaro) but they agreed to take part in the game. So they now need to calm down.” In a two-minute address on Tuesday, President Bolsonaro sent a different message to his supporters. He called the protests “the fruit of indignation and a feeling of injustice about how the electoral process played out.” He went on to say that peaceful protests will always be welcomed, but destruction was not welcomed. Some of his supporters took those words as a call to stay on the streets, still, the roadblocks started to decrease the next day. President Bolsonaro has avoided conceding defeat but has authorized his chief of staff to start the transition process.  Preliminary meetings have already begun between the two parties.


In one of the closest elections in Brazil’s history, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro. These polar opposite candidates battled it out through the general election where neither gained the required 50% of the vote and through the runoff where da Silva won with 51% of the vote. As tensions remain high in Brazil, the question remains, will da Silva be able to unify the country in this time of turmoil?