Lula da Silva, the next president of Brazil, will have a strong regional counterweight. Of the country’s 27 states, most will be in the hands of conservative governors, though not necessarily Bolsonarians. The state of São Paulo, the country’s economic engine and home to more than 46 million Brazilians, will be governed by Bolsonaro’s former infrastructure minister Tarcísio de Freitas. Brazil’s most populous region has always been in the hands of the moderate right, but now it is once again turning the screw and throwing itself into the arms of Bolsonarianism. Former minister Fernando Haddad, Lula’s last-minute replacement in elections four years ago and former mayor of São Paulo, achieved the Workers’ Party (PT)’s best historical result in this hostile region, but it was not enough.
In his first public appearance since his victory, Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas has however played down a potential clash with Lula. “We will look at the interests of the state of São Paulo. Understand that in order for us to enact public policies, it is essential to partner with the federal government,” he said. “I understand that the election result is sovereign. It was a difficult, close election. And it shows us that we have thoughts that divide the country, some more progressive and some more conservative. But the result is sovereign,” he warned, even as his political boss, Bolsonaro, delayed conceding defeat.
Despite the success in São Paulo, Bolsonaro’s strategy of assigning strong names in his government to consolidate regional power has only partially succeeded. The right predominates, but it is not necessarily Bolsonarian. In another important state, Rio Grande do Sul, former minister Onyx Lorenzoni, who started as a favorite, was defeated by current governor Eduardo Leite, a young gay politician who even tried to run for president last year. Leite belongs to the PSDB, which has been the main centre-right party for most of Brazil’s recent history. Although it is not what it used to be, the party is not completely dead and will rule in three states: Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso do Sul and Pernambuco. This is a right with which Lula will not have so much difficulty in dialogue.
The victory in Pernambuco is particularly interesting. Raquel Lyra will be a conservative governor in Lula’s home state and in the heart of the country’s most progressive region, the Northeast. The future president spent the campaign refusing to say who she would vote for in the runoff for fear of losing votes, which her opponents identified as support for Bolsonaro. His opponent was another woman, Marilia Arraes, a rarity in a predominantly male election. Personally, Lyra had to face a very difficult campaign: on the day of the first round of voting, her 44-year-old husband died suddenly.
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For PT, one of the few unqualified victories came from the state of Bahia. Salvador’s well-known mayor, ACM Neto, from the center right, was facing a historic milestone of wresting one of his strongholds from the left, but in the end the Lula-backed candidate, Jerônimo Rodrigues, prevailed. future governor Bahian He started the election campaign as an absolute unknown, but grew thanks to the support of Lula and some verbal hiccups from ACM Net, a light-skinned man who defined himself as a mestizo in the blackest state in Brazil.
Of the 12 states decided in this second round, five remained in the hands of open Bolsonaro governors (São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondônia, Santa Catarina and Amazonas); four were for the PT or more linked to Lula (Bahía, Alagoas, Espírito Santo and Paraíba) and three will be governed by the moderate center-right (Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco, Sergipe).
Of the 15 governors elected on October 2, nine supported Bolsonaro and six supported Lula. In that first round, the leader of the extreme right already managed to gain important strongholds, especially Rio de Janeiro, where he began his political career, and Minas Gerais, the second most populous state in the country and which is crucial for deciding the election result.
In Minas, the victory of Governor Romeu Zema, a liberal who appeared neutral but eventually swore allegiance to the far right, was expected to be key to winning votes for a president who would tip the balance nationally, but the strategy did not work. Although Minas voted for a conservative governor, the majority of its residents chose Lula for president.
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