São Paulo: The battle for the richest state in Brazil turns uphill for Lula's PT | International

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Bolsonaro accompanied by Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas, candidate for governor of São Paulo, in a motorcycle caravan on the eve of last Sunday's elections.Sebastian Moreira (EFE)

The dream of conquering for the first time the Government of the richest state in Brazil has been put uphill for the Workers' Party, and it aims to remain a chimera after Sunday's elections. As anticipated, São Paulo, the economic engine of the country, has become a mirror of the polarization of the presidential race. So far there were no surprises. The candidates of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and President Jair Bolsonaro will compete for the Governorship in a second round, but the result has been inverted with respect to the panorama drawn by the polls. When no one expected it, the former Minister of Infrastructure Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas, a reserve soldier and Bolsonaro's lieutenant, came out with 42% of the votes ahead of Fernando Haddad, Lula's political heir and former mayor of São Paulo, who he kept 35%.

Like the presidential ones, the state elections in Brazil contemplate a second shift if no candidate gets half plus one of the votes. In São Paulo, the largest electoral college with its 46 million inhabitants, Bolsonarism caresses victory in that instance. The president himself won comfortably on Sunday in the richest and most populous state, which concentrates more than 30% of GDP, and that electoral push, which was not in anyone's accounts, has towed Gomes Freitas.

Although the State of São Paulo has been a bastion of the center right since the redemocratization of Brazil, it is also the cradle of the PT, the place where Lula forged his legend in the union struggles of the megacity's workers' belt. The left aspired to break that taboo, but the second turn now seems very difficult in the face of a mobilized Bolsonarismo.

The election has also struck down the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, the PSDB, which dominated São Paulo politics for decades. The era of toucans, as the traditional center-right is known, has come to an end. In third place was the current governor, Rodrigo García, who only took office in April, after the resignation of João Dória for a failed presidential adventure. The way in which they position themselves between Bolsonaroism and Lulismo, which still has the letter of its vice-presidential candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, a historical figure of the PSDB who has been governor for more than a decade, will be key.

Tarcísio's demonstration, as everyone calls him, was both the biggest surprise of the day and the biggest stumble in the polls, which showed Haddad, a PT heavyweight who lost the 2018 presidential runoff against Bolsonaro, far ahead. when Lula was in prison for corruption convictions that were later annulled by the justice system. The far-right president has lashed out at the polls for months, saying they underestimate his strength. São Paulo now fills it with arguments to continue hammering the pollsters.

His former infrastructure minister was born in another state, Rio de Janeiro, had no experience in São Paulo and was not even sure in which part of the city he voted, which was a source of attacks in the campaign but did not make a dent. He has a more moderate and technocratic profile than the president himself, and was even an official in the government of Dilma Rousseff, Lula's successor in the Planalto palace. If in the second round of October 30 Tarcísio ends up winning the Governorate, and Bolsonaro losing to Lula, he will be a strong name to pick up the right-wing flags in 2026. With the country's second budget, the governor of São Paulo automatically becomes a candidate for the presidency of the Republic.

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Not all the results in São Paulo were so resounding for the extreme right. Eduardo Bolsonaro, 38, the youngest of the president's sons involved in politics, got his re-election to Congress. But if four years ago he was the deputy with the most support in all of Brazil, with 1.8 million votes, this Sunday he was only the third most voted in the state, with 741,701 votes. By contrast, the deputy with the most votes in São Paulo was Guilherme Boulos, from the PSOL, the great hope of the left outside the orbit of the PT. With just over a million votes, Boulos won the challenge he had launched during the campaign, when he promised that he would finish ahead of Eduardo, known as Bolsonaro 03.

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