Former Brazilian president Luiz Incio Lula da Silva has defeated the incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro to make a remarkable and stunning political comeback three years after he walked out of a prison cell.
These elections mark the capstone of Latin America’s most watched power struggle between Lula, who represents the left-wing Workers' Party (PT) and Bolsonaro, the ultra rightwing leader, who was often likened to Trump.
Lula’s win also represents the return of the left into power in Brazil, and concludes a triumphant personal comeback for Lula da Silva.
“They tried to bury me alive and I’m here,” he said in a jubilant speech to supporters, describing the win as his political “resurrection.”
“Starting on January 1, 2023, I will govern for the 215 million Brazilians, not just the ones who voted for me. There are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people, one great nation,” Lula da Silva also said.
Lula addressed a myriad issues in his victory speech but made it clear his first priority was the one that he has championed throughout his remarkable political career: improving the lot of Brazil’s poor.
Here are four top reasons why Lula’s win is an important political development.
Save the Amazon
One of Lula’s highest priority areas is the Amazon, the world’s breathing lungs. Under the former president, deforestation peaked in the rainforest.
Lula will most certainly halt most of Bolsonaro’s policies that encouraged ranchers, prospectors and loggers to besiege the Amazon and plunder its natural resources.
Covid-19 has led to the deaths of nearly 700,000 Brazilians. Bolsonaro’s not-so-impressive attitude to buying vaccines and imposing health restrictions led some commentators to criticise Brazil’s response to the pandemic.
Lula faces harsh economic headwinds as he enters office with a progressive agenda. All eyes are now on how the maverick would rebuild Brazil.
Lula is a lifelong activist and a trade union leader. His support base is made up of poor and racially diverse states – places that gave Lula landslide victories.
During his previous stints as president, Lula’s policies reduced poverty, created social programmes and improved healthcare and educational access.
There are high expectations, especially from lower-income citizens that Lula will turn things around.
Heal the nation
Lula takes the mantle at a time of sharp political polarisation, following the tempestuous presidency of Bolsonaro.
He faces a really tough timr as he enters Planalto Palace (presidential office). Lula has to deal with a Congress controlled by the opposition, a polarised nation and deep social problems such as precarious employment.
Battling Bolsonaro legacy won’t be easy but Lula is a lifelong fighter. Will he be able to unite a deeply divided nation? The jury is out.