Bolsonarism has found a foothold in the richest country in Brazil. São Paulo, the country’s economic engine, became a mirror of the polarization of the presidential race in which Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva eventually defeated Jair Bolsonaro, but here the result was reversed. Former infrastructure minister Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas, a big winning bet for the defeated far-right president, won a landslide victory by far outscoring Fernando Haddad, Lula’s political successor. Bolsonaro will also leave behind a conservative-majority Congress and key allies in the most populous states, a formidable counterweight to the Workers’ Party leader’s third term.
De Freitas, a technical official who has never contested an election, won with more than 13 million votes, 55.2% compared to 44.7% for Haddad. A distance that contrasts with Lula’s narrow margin of victory (50.9% to 49.1%). Promoted to a kind of asphalt king, the elected governor was projected as a stumbling block for the future government, although he was conciliatory in his first statements. He said Sunday night that “the result of the polls is sovereign” and that he would seek “understanding” with the future federal government, even before Bolsonaro, who was silent on Monday, conceded Lula’s victory.
Tarcísio, as everyone knows him, was born in Rio de Janeiro, lived in Brasilia and had no experience in São Paulo, to the extent that he was not sure in which part of the city he should vote, the wing that is the target of attacks in the bell . None of that bothered him in the duel with Haddad, who started as the favorite in the polls. Despite riding the Bolsonarian wave and following his ideological upstart, De Freitas cultivated a more moderate and technocratic profile than the president himself, and even served as an official in the government of Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s successor.
Haddad, PT’s heavyweight, became the other side of the coin. Lula’s student, the former minister of education and mayor of the city of São Paulo between 2013 and 2016, lost the election for the third time. First, he failed to be re-elected as mayor. Then, when Lula had to give up his 2018 presidential bid due to prison time, Haddad picked up his flags but lost in the second round of the presidential election to Bolsonaro. Analysts predict, in any case, that he will have a leading role in the next government.
Like presidential, state elections consider a second round if no candidate receives half plus one vote. In 12 of the 26 states, the governor is defined this Sunday, but none is as relevant as São Paulo, the main electoral college that concentrates more than 30% of Brazil’s GDP. With its 45 million inhabitants, the country itself is the third largest economy in Latin America.
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Its weight is undeniable. São Paulo has traditionally been a center-right bastion since Brazil’s re-democratization, but it is also the birthplace of the PT, where Lula emerged as a union leader. The rampage of Bolsonarianism, however, ended with the crushing of the traditional Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), a moderate right-wing party that ruled for 28 years, even during the first Lula in power, between 2003 and 2010. Cornered by the extreme right, the historic figures of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s party have offered to support Lula, his former opponent, in this election.
The next president will have to rely on his reputation as a skilled negotiator, since he is in the minority in both Congress and the territorial government. At the moment, Lula only has the explicit support of 10 of Brazil’s 27 governors – which include the Federal District of Brasilia. Most states will remain in the hands of conservatives, although not necessarily Bolsonarians. The far-right president, who must hand over power to Lula next New Year, will leave allies stationed not only in São Paulo, but also in Minas Gerais, the second most populous state, and Rio de Janeiro, the third, where he began his political career.
In this new leadership map, the center-right PSDB, despite shipwreck in São Paulo, barely managed to survive with three victories second round which included returns. Eduardo Leite, a young politician who had support critically PT, he was re-elected governor of Rio Grande do Sul, defeating former Bolsonaro minister Onyx Lorenzoni, who started as the favorite. Former congresswoman Raquel Lyra – who was widowed ahead of the first round – also prevailed in Pernambuco, the northeastern state where Lula was born, as did businessman Eduardo Riedel in Mato Grosso do Sul.
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