The remarkable return of Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva to a third term as President of Brazil may be subject to incumbent Jair Bolsanaro vacating his office in orderly transfer of power in the New Year. The swing to the Left may be in line with what has been happening in Latin America where at least six major nations have gone down this political road. But, in Brazil, the swing away from the maverick rightist Bolsonaro is of great import to the world at large as Lula’s comeback should ease the pressures on an Amazon rainforest burning from deliberate denudation wrought by Bolsonaro’s nonchalance in cocking a snook at the environment.
A wafer-thin majority under 2 per cent may be an index of the deep polarisation in Brazilian society, but it comes despite voter intimidation and attempts to keep them away from EVMs, which Bolsanaro often derided. What more a Donald Trump clone will do in replicating the American’s playbook remains to be seen. As a Covid sceptic, he may have done enough damage already, likening it as he did to the ‘common cold’. He frowned upon the vaccine though Brazil lost 7 lakh people to the pandemic, a toll second only to the USA.
In prison for graft during the elections in 2018 and freed by the top court a year later — on the grounds of due process not being followed — Lula has many challenges to face after his country had suffered Bolsanaro’s eccentricities and policies and his mocking of the sections of the electorate like women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. Lula is no longer the union leader from the radical Left as was evident from his shift to the centre in the run-up to the crucial 2022 polls.
The people of a populous democracy have made their choice and the world may heave a sigh of relief at the loss of traction for the likes of Bolsonaro. However, it is the spectre of the dangers of deep divisions in society that makes for a scary scenario as economies face headwinds and people’s restiveness may be more due to economic causes than political right now.