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THE RETURN OF LULA IN BRAZIL
The election in Brazil holds lessons for Nigeria
Former President of Brazil, Luiz Lula da Silva last Sunday defeated the incumbent Jaír Bolsonaro in the runoff election that has split the country down the middle. Because no presidential candidate received more than 50% in the first round of voting, a second round was needed. At the end, the leftist Lula of Workers Party secured 60.345,999 votes representing 50.9 per cent while the right-wing Bolsonaro garnered 58.206.354 votes representing 49.1 per cent. While the incumbent has not conceded defeat, he has also not been as belligerent as he was before the contest when he gave indication that he might not accept the result if it did not go his away. Despite the protest by some of his supporters who are blocking highways across the country, the transition to a new Lula administration in January 2023 has commenced.
The outcome of the presidential election in Brazil is important for wider reasons. The clash between a liberal politician and a Trumpian conservative populist symbolised by Lula and Bolsonaro respectively is an increasingly imminent global pattern. It has played out somewhat in the Philippines. It is loading in Hungary and several other countries in Europe. While the tribe of extremist leaders is growing across the world, it is also important to properly appreciate the electoral value of people-oriented social programmes in the politics of emerging market democracies. That is the value of Lula’s electoral victory. He is returning to power 12 years after he left office as a two-term president on the basis of socially beneficial legacies.
It is noteworthy that in 2010, Lula was convicted on charges of corruption and money laundering after a controversial trial and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. But he fought his case to the country’s Supreme Court where he was acquitted. Apparently because he left demonstrably beneficial social and economic legacies during his previous tenure as president, he has remained a folk hero to millions of Brazilians and that reflected in this election. Meanwhile, the outgoing president embarked on an insensitive devastation of the Amazon Forest with scant regard for the livelihood and values of the millions of Brazilians that have depended on that ecosystem for centuries. He also reaped the consequences at the poll.
The first lesson from the Brazilian election is that a democracy matures when the will of the people is vindicated no matter how thin the margins of victory may be. Also in a true democracy, electoral outcomes must reflect not only the most enlightened scientific poll projections but also reflect the wishes of the people. The outgoing president pursued his conservative agenda sometimes in utter disregard for issues of public good like the Covid-19 pandemic which he downplayed with tragic consequences that almost claimed his own life. At the end, a statistical deadlock necessitated a run-off poll. The people waited and cast the second decisive ballot which returned a final outcome with a narrow margin, thus vindicating most of the polls.
Yes, the presidential election has polarised the Brazilian society. But it’s a salutary division between supporters and beneficiaries of the social democratic agenda of Lula on the one hand and those in favour of the recklessness of the outgoing President Bolsonaro on the other hand. Therefore, the choice before the Brazilian electorate was primarily policy-defined and not ethnic, regional or religious. It is also instructive that leaders of the Workers’ Party remained resilient during Lula’s persecution. They did not defect to the “winning” party. Having stayed the course, they would now return to power.
For Nigerian politicians, the foregoing are lessons in consistency and principled adherence to enduring values. We hope they will imbibe those lessons as they campaign for the 2023 general election.