Who is Lula da Silva? Meet Brazil’s “new” leftist president.

The former metal worker and Brazilian leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Wins the presidency in Brazil. At national elections on Sunday, Brazilian voters delivered a narrow victory for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a beloved former President.

The former union leader took 50.9% against 49.1% for Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing incumbent. The result should mark an end to a bruising and deeply polarizing election year.

It plunges this country of 200 million people into a tense wait to see how Bolsonaro will respond who has spent the past year indicating that he would not accept a loss in these elections.

His campaign has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that Brazil’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud in a widely-remarked echo of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric in the run-up to the 2020 election.

Many analysts ahead of Sunday’s ballot had warned of the possibility of a Brazilian version of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, and indeed, after the result, some Bolsonaro supporters began to denounce Lula’s victory as fraudulent, and call for military intervention.

But more than 12 hours after Lula’s victory was confirmed by Brazil’s election authorities, neither Bolsonaro, his campaign staff, nor his politician sons had commented on the result or addressed supporters.

However, several key allies of the President, including the speaker of the lower house of Brazil’s Congress, have recognized the result and called for democracy to be respected on Sunday night. That leaves Bolsonaro and his closest aides looking increasingly isolated.

World leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and the presidents of all of Brazil’s South American neighbors, rushed to deliver their congratulations to Lula within hours of the result, piling pressure on Bolsonaro not to challenge the result.

In his victory speech on Sunday night, Lula struck a conciliatory note, aiming to heal political divisions deepened by the polarizing months-long contest that ended in his victory in Sunday’s run-off contest, four weeks after the first round of voting on Oct. 2.

“As of January 1, 2023, I will govern for 215 million Brazilians and not just for those who voted for me,” he said. “There are not two Brazilians. We are one country, one people, and one great nation.”

Who is Lula?

Lula has been a household name in Brazil for around three decades. After serving as the head of a steelworkers union in São Paulo in the 1970s, Lula helped to establish the leftist Worker’s Party, and he won his first presidential election in 2002.

His two terms in office were boom times for Brazil: a surge in the value of Brazilian commodities and rising exports to China powered rapid economic growth.

The windfall helped to fund a major expansion of social programs, including Bolsa Família which provided direct cash transfers to low-income families in exchange for ensuring children’s attendance in school cementing Lula’s popularity with poorer Brazilians. He left office in 2010 with an 83% approval rating.

Lula’s reputation later took a severe hit, though. In 2017, federal prosecutors implicated the former President in their investigation of a vast corruption scheme that they said had taken root during his administration.

Lula was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for accepting a luxury apartment as a bribe, a charge he has always dismissed as a politically-motivated attack. The judge who convicted him would later go on to serve as Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

In 2021, Brazil’s Supreme Court overruled Lula’s conviction, saying his right to a fair trial had been compromised, a ruling later agreed with by the U.N.’s human rights council clearing him to run for re-election against Bolsonaro in 2022.

But Brazilians remain deeply divided over Lula’s guilt or innocence: according to a September poll, 44% of voters still believe Lula was rightfully convicted, while 40% believe his conviction was unjust.

Tens of thousands of supporters of the former president of Brazil and presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attend his final rally before the election on Oct. 29, 2022, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Bolsonaro’s approach to COVID-19, combined with his attacks on Brazil’s democracy, allowed the former President to command a broad unity coalition against him, including his former political rivals. Geraldo Alckmin, a center-right former São Paulo Governor who was Lula’s rival in the 2006 election, will be his Vice President.

Lula pledged to “rebuild Brazil” that is, restore public services battered by years of underinvestment, use Brazil’s fossil fuel resources to lower domestic energy prices and battle inflation, and help the millions of Brazilians struggling with food insecurity.

Observers claim that  Lula’s campaign relied largely on nostalgia and that the former President has refused to share details of the economic plan that will underpin his vision for Brazil.

“I am the only candidate with whom people should not be concerned about economic policy ”  he asserted in March 2022. “Because I’ve been a President twice already. We don’t discuss economic policies before winning the elections. First, you have to win the elections.”

Lula’s next government will face a much more challenging economic landscape than his first one did in the early 2000s. Brazil has been staggering from one economic crisis to the next for eight years. Now, global economic turmoil from the war in Ukraine is driving up energy prices, while a years-long drought is curbing production in the crucial agricultural sector.

The jubilant supporters of Brazilian former President and candidate for the leftist Workers Party Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva celebrate while watching the vote count of the presidential run-off election at Largo Sao Francisco da Prainha in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Oct. 30, 2022. Lula’s return to a world in crisis.

Many world leaders will welcome Lula’s return. During his first term, Lula played an influential role in global politics, often serving as a broker between Western governments and their rivals.

That may prove helpful in an era where diplomatic efforts to establish international cooperation on the climate crisis are increasingly urgent.

The President-elect has vowed to bring deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon under control, which would do much to heal Brazil’s frayed relationship with the E.U.

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