A few quick thoughts on the coronavirus situation in Brazil at the moment and what it means for President Jair Bolsonaro’s re-election campaign next year. (Thread )
The all-but-declared presidential candidacy former President Lula has received fairly glowing coverage outside the country. “How,” many ask, “could a man as vulgar and apparently unsuccessful in office as Bolsonaro possibly compete with a leftist icon like Lula?
In reality, picture is mixed. While Bolsonaro is seen as having mishandled coronavirus, Lula and his team have a stench to corruption. Both have an uncrumbleable floor of about a third of the vote, leaving the remaining third up for grabs. 40% say they’ll “never” vote Lula.
I suspect Bolsonaro is pretty content to face Lula. The ex-President’s candidacy freezes the opposition field and prevents a moderate centrist like São Paulo Gov. João Doria from building a broad coalition to challenge him.
Bolsonaro and his cabal have hardly been whiter than white when it comes to ethics but he trumps Lula on this metric. Expect him to hammer Lula on both this issue & (*hugely* resonant) fears about public safety. In 2018, B.’s foul rhetoric was overlooked and ignored.
Brazilians are no different to European voters in that they largely vote with their pockets in mind. The USD to Real is at a near-record low now but is expected to markedly bounce back next year - just in time for the election. Govt will claim credit.
There are few countries where the polling standing of politicians is more closely tied to handouts than Brazil. Bolsonaro’s popularity soared early during coronavirus due to cash handouts to the working poor. If he needs to make a similar gesture to win next year, he can/will.
The last Brazilian Congress sharply turned against leftist Pres. and Lula successor Dilma Rousseff and impeached her. Bolsonaro is in a stronger position. His allies control Congress and have no appetite for probes into his conduct. This saves a lot of bad headlines/theatrics.
There’s a reasonable amount of evidence to show Brazil has its act together when it comes to vaccinations of vulnerable groups. 38 million jabs have now been given and death rates *are* falling in urban areas where dense housing has fuelled a rapid spread.
There’s lots of evidence to show vax programmes fuel political comebacks. Popularity of the UK govt rebounded from late-2020 nadir on back of a hugely successful rollout and, if the US election was now rather than in November, Trump would have won. Bolsonaro could benefit too.
There is, of course, plenty of time to go. Lula’s best bet is to hope for continued chaos in respect of coronavirus and an appeal to public (most important) and business (far less) sentiment for a return to stability. But he’s the wrong messenger for this kind of line.
In the 2002 French presidential runoff between Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen, leftist voters used the slogan “vote for the crook, not the fascist. I strongly suspect most Brazilian voters will think the other way round.