Lula Defeats Bolsonaro In Brazil’s Closest Election In Decades

Socialist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated incumbent conservative Jair Bolsonaro to become Brazil’s President-elect for a third term.

Lula was convicted and sentenced to more than two decades in prison for alleged corruption and money laundering, a charge that was annulled by Brazil’s top court only after Lula spent 580 days in prison. He led the country for two consecutive terms from 2003 to 2011 leaving office with both a high approval rating and in the midst of Brazil’s largest ever corruption probe.

According to CNN, “He left office with a 90% approval rating – a record tarnished however by Brazil’s largest corruption probe, dubbed ‘Operation Car Wash,’ which led to charges against hundreds of high-ranking politicians and businesspeople across Latin America. He was convicted for corruption and money laundering in 2017, but a court threw out his conviction in March 2021, clearing the way for his political rebound.”

Interestingly, Lula’s conviction was not overturned on the grounds of its merits, but rather because the judge presiding was said to be personally biased against Lula and lacked the jurisdiction to try the case. According to Breitbart, “The reasoning did not challenge any of the evidence against Lula or the appeals that affirmed the original conviction.”

Bolsonaro, on the other hand, ran for office for the first time in 2018, running as an outsider with a conservative agenda. He ran as the “anti-corruption” candidate and won, but his first term was marred with COVID-19 and everything that came along with it.

The election was decided by around 2 million votes in a country of about 214 million people, making it the closest election since 1989 in Brazil. Included in the votes were 32.2 million “abstentions” which was approximately 20% of the entire vote.

Abstentions in Brazil are not people simply staying home and not voting. They are, according to Breitbart, “voters who presented a ballot with nothing on it, and null votes, ballots that could not be counted for a variety of reasons for either candidate.”

President Biden was the first major world leader to call and congratulate Lula on his win, calling the Brazilian election “free, fair and credible.” With the election being so close and the corruption charges against Lula so convincing, there was talk that Bolsonaro might call for a recount at the least or go even further and question the results and validity of the election. Biden’s quick call into the new leader was a step to ensure the international community that America stands behind the results and agrees that someone convicted of corruption should in fact be the new President of Brazil.