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Bolsonaro Cuts Advantage Over Lula, What is the Reason for this Trend?

A few months before the presidential elections in Brazil, Lula remains at the top of the polls, despite the fact that Bolsonaro's numbers continue to rise. We analyze the reason for this trend .

Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil.

Photo: Flickr-Planalto Palace

LatinAmerican Post | Yolanda González Madrid

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Leer en español: Bolsonaro recorta ventaja sobre Lula, ¿a qué se debe esa tendencia?

After several years with a strong right-wing trend, Latin America is once again leaning to the left on a path that began in 2018 with Mexico and that could add a sixth power this 2022 with Brazil. And it is that the largest nation in the Southern Cone has experienced a few months of intensity ahead of its elections in October. The candidate leading the polls is former president Lula da Silva, who is running against President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil has not experienced such a turbulent situation for years. There are many issues on the table that need immediate attention and solutions. Just to mention a few, the country is dealing with increased insecurity, damage from deforestation, rising prices, and even bad policies that have put it back on the UN hunger map.

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Faced with these scenarios, citizens have been debating between two trends to try to get out of the water as soon as possible. On the one hand, Bolsonaro is trying to apply different strategies to recover lost ground in the final stretch, something he has managed to achieve recently. While, on the other hand, Lula stands as the only option capable of reversing the current problems, and this is reflected in the polls.

Some may wonder how the left-wing candidate came to be the favorite with all the corruption scandals surrounding him. The answer points to the advance of authoritarianism and institutional destruction by the current president. Lula returns in a critical social situation and that has given his campaign greater strength, but the fact that his percentage is beginning to drop could be the beginning of a new trend.

Bolsonaro, to Improve His Position

According to the Datafolha pollster, Lula remains the favorite candidate with 47% over Bolsonaro's 29%, figures published at the end of July. But although the left-wing politician has a comfortable advantage, the truth is that until recently the gap was larger (59% to 22%). Even in a possible second round, it would continue to be in the lead (55% to 34%), despite the fact that it continues to drop points less compared to previous months.

This improvement in Bolsonaro's numbers may be related to the failure of a third way. Right-wing voters never looked favorably on the options of other candidates, and to avoid the return to power of the left, they have no choice but to vote for the re-election of the current president. And it is that, as several expert analysts have explained, this trend could continue to gain strength as the months go by.

To better understand this matter, it is important to point out that the former candidates Sergio Moro and Joao Doria stepped aside that caused a small rise in Bolsonaro. The percentage points of each of them fell mostly to the Brazilian president, who will now have to bet everything to convince the percentage of undecided voters.

For its part, the health situation of the pandemic would be another card that is playing in favor of the right-wing politician. A good part of the voters are already less worried about Covid-19, and part of this is thanks to the social assistance program that has been in operation since 2020 to serve informal workers. With this, Bolsonaro has shown his interest in enhancing public power in Brazil.

Likewise, the upward trend that the Brazilian leader is going through begins to take place at a peak moment prior to the elections. His social programs, such as economic aid to the most vulnerable due to price increases, are also part of this effective strategy to reduce his advantage over Lula. Although that is why they call it “buying the people”, it is still a movement that benefits voters in the short term.

So, will Bolsonaro be able to continue closing the gap in the polls? It is very probable. It will be essential for the president to put aside those issues that would undermine his popularity, such as controversies and ideological wars, in order to prioritize three important fronts: the young, the lower class and the female electorate. Each step he takes will become more relevant in the face of historic elections in Brazil.