Jair Bolsonaro, who has never fallen from the list of authoritarian rulers, lost by a margin of 2 million votes in Brazil's second round of presidential elections. His replacement, former leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, assumed the presidency again on January 1. On December 30, Bolsonaro traveled to Florida on a Brazilian Air Force plane.
As Bartu Özden points out in his article on the subject, the election results in October created a new period of uncertainty regarding Bolsonaro's reaction and possible statements. Before the elections, Bolsonaro called on his base to take up arms and stated that he would not recognise the elections if Lula da Silva won. In this respect, it was a matter of curiosity whether Bolsonaro, who showed an attitude similar to Trump's attitude towards the elections in the US, would accept the election results.
Bolsonaro vs. Lula
In 2018, Bolsonaro, the presidential candidate of the Social Liberal Party, made headlines with the amount of donations he raised during his campaign, but one of the factors in his election was the jailing of Lula da Silva on corruption charges. Lula da Silva, President from 2003-2010, was released by court order after serving 580 days of a 12-year prison sentence. On the other hand, the imprisonment of the leader, who was the head of one of the mainstream parties and former President of the Republic has further increased polarisation between left-wing supporters of Lula da Silva and right-wing supporters of Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro traveling to Florida
On January 1, the day of Lula da Silva's inauguration, Bolsonaro had already arrived in Florida, thus canceling the handover ceremony. ‘I’m on a flight, I’ll be back soon.’ Bolsonaro told CNN Brazil. ‘Brazil will not end on January 1, you can be sure about that.’ he told his supporters in a recording, referring to Lula's presidency, while the rest of Bolsonaro's government announced that they would work with the new team in the process of changing the government.
On the other hand, Bolsonaro supporters went to military barracks to protest the election results without providing evidence and called on the military to take action. The new Minister of Justice and Public Security, Flávio Dino, responded to the protesters who received no answer from the military. Dino declared the protesting groups terrorists and said there would be no amnesty for terrorists, their supporters, and financiers.
Brazil under Lula
The people and the economy of Brazil, which went through the pandemic under the Bolsonaro administration, suffered heavy blows. Lula da Silva, one of whose most important promises is to ‘bring back the good times of steak and beer’, has a tough road ahead of him.
According to the Financial Times, compared to the period of economic growth and poverty reduction between 2003 and 2010, under Lula's current administration the country's economy is shrinking due to both internal and external factors. Among the most prominent problems are the losses caused by the pandemic, problems in production, the environment damaged by the Amazon fires, and social polarisation.
Agenda of the new government
Lula's messages indicate that he is aware of the biggest problems from which the people suffer. In his first speech to Congress, Lula promised to ‘build a new nation in Brazil with and for everyone, without revenge’, and in several speeches he announced to take actions to end the destruction of the Amazonas, and appointed Marina Silva, one of Brazil's most important activists, as Minister of Environment and Climate.
On the other hand, underlining that the country has lost at least 680 thousand citizens as a result of Bolsonaro's pandemic-era policies, he stated that they will follow the necessary legal procedures in this regard. Lula also announced that he would transform Brazil from the world's food producer into a ‘green superpower’.
These promises and the first steps that follow, which are greeted with enthusiasm by at least half of the population, may be hampered by the economic and social difficulties the country is facing. How far the new government will follow its agenda remains to be seen.
Most importantly, Bolsonaro's electoral defeat offers a new perspective on the analysis and expectations of Bolsonaro, painting a portrait of an autocrat, who loses power through elections while trying to gather political and economic power around him.