Brazil Elections 2022: Lula begins a month of seduction of the voter who stayed home | International

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More than 30 million people (21%) did not vote in the presidential elections on Sunday in Brazil. It is a huge and unknown mass. That is where Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva should aim if he wants to win in the second round, scheduled for October 30. The first left him just two points from the presidency without the need for a tiebreaker. Mathematics favors him, but the unusual push that Jair Bolsonaro obtained at the polls forces him to keep his guard up. The president, who is going for re-election, obtained 43% of the votes, ten points more than what the polls gave him. Outside of the abstentionists there is not much left, that's how polarized the day was. Between Lula and Bolsonaro they accumulated almost 92% of the valid votes, or 108 million votes.

The candidates' strategy is still unclear. Lula da Silva, of the Workers' Party (PT), opted in the first round for a campaign that opposed "a vote with love" to Bolsonaro's warmongering speech. She was not enough to win in the first round, despite the rise in preferences shown by the polls during the last week. Hunting the abstentionists will not be easy. "I doubt very much that the voter who did not want to vote in the first round decides to do so in the second," warns Rafael Mantovani, a political scientist at the Federal University of Santa Catarina. “These are people who are not afraid of Lula or Bolsonaro; everything just seems silly to them”, says Mantovani.

Lula then has five million votes left to capture from Simone Tebet, of the Democratic Movement, and another 3.6 million from Ciro Gomes, a former minister of the PT government. It is not very clear where that electorate will end up. Lula has in her favor that Tebet opted for a speech in defense of the environment, despite being a candidate with interests in agribusiness. "His is a conservative vote, but he spent the entire campaign saying that Brazil should look at ecology if it wants to sell meat and soybeans to the world," says Mantovani. "It could be that part of his votes go to the candidate who has an environmental agenda," he adds, referring to Lula da Silva.

Gomes' vote should, naturally, opt for the PT, but nothing is certain. In that group of voters there are disenchanted with the former president, who is not forgiven for the corruption cases that soured his two governments, such as the Lava Jato investigation. The former president spent more than 500 days in prison, until a court annulled all his sentences for formal reasons. Lula always considered himself a political victim of justice, which acted, according to this reading, to kill him as a politician. The return is a revenge for Lula, but not so much for those who supported him in the past and have now lost faith.

Understanding the electoral map will also be key. Lula is assured of the northeast vote, but on Sunday he suffered an epic and unpredictable beating in the State of São Paulo, a country within another, with 46 million inhabitants, the same as Colombia or Argentina. Bolsonaro obtained 47.8% of the votes there, seven points more than Lula, equivalent to 1.8 million people. The electoral push of the current president even moved to the dispute for the governorship. Bolsonaro appointed an unknown candidate in the district, Tarcísio de Freitas, a military man born in another state, Rio de Janeiro, who was his Minister of Infrastructure. De Freitas got 42% of the vote, almost seven points ahead of Fernando Haddad, a political heavyweight who ran for president for the Workers' Party in 2018, precisely against Bolsonaro.

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“The interior of São Paulo is very Bolsonarist, much more so than the state capital,” says Mantovani. There he penetrated the ultra speech of Bolsonaro, promoter of the motto "God, country and family". "If before we discussed public safety, now we vote for a candidate who says that criminals must be killed, with a war speech," he adds. Lula will have to fish in that increasingly tough electorate, while Bolsonaro becomes stronger. Just look at the success of the president's candidates in Congress: they will add 96 seats, the largest parliamentary group, above the PT. Lula's victory in the first round should not hide the fact that Brazil is turning more and more to the right.

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