opportunitas-advisors-What to expect in the second round of Brazils Presidential Election

October 27, 2022

What to Expect in the Second Round of
Brazil´s Presidential Election

The eyes of the world will look upon Brazil this Sunday as voters head to the polls to select a new president for the South American giant. President Jair Bolsolnaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva face off in an election marked by polarized visions for the country.

Ahead of the second round of the presidential election, Opportunitas Advisors turned to leading Brazilian political analyst and researcher, Mauricio Moura, to provide a fresh perspective on what can be expected from this Sunday’s poll. Mr. Moura is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ideia Big Data. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Sector Economics from the Fundacao Gertulio Vargas and is a Visiting Scholar at George Washington University.

Why did pollsters underestimate Bolsonaro’s support in the first round of the election? Can we trust the polls heading into the second round?

At the outset, there are two important things to highlight. First, surveys are not prognoses, they are portraits of the period in which they were carried out. Second in Brazil, the entire registration process of an electoral survey is transparent and registered at the Supreme Electoral Court’s (TSE) website including the research sample, questionnaire, statistician data, and even the invoice. Everything is registered and open for public inspection.

The polls did capture a very high number of undecided voters before voting day. Some polls showed that undecided voters were as high as 10% two days before the election. In other words, these voters decided the day before what candidate they were going to vote for. Given the lack of exit polls these last-minute changes were not captured in the polling.

Lastly, voter abstention, which the TSE data made evident, hurt Lula more than Bolsonaro. Taking into account the white and null votes and the abstentions, Lula received 36.60% of the votes of all eligible voters in the 2022 election, and Bolsonaro received 32.64% (this is the total votes, not the valid ones). In other words, the polls overestimated the vote for Lula. An example is the result of the illiterate vote abstention, which reached 52.08%. Therefore, the polls captured, within the margin of error, Bolsonaro’s result.

What has Bolsonaro done in the campaign for the second round of the election to close the gap between him and Lula?

In the second round of the 2022 elections alone, Bolsonaro collected more than 65 million reais in donations from individuals. Lula reached R$1.3 million in donations in the same period. High caliber businessmen like Salim Mattar, owner of Localiza, Hugo de Carvalho, and Pedro and Alexandre Grendene each gave more than R$1 million in personal donations to Bolsonaro’s campaign. The spending limit for the presidential campaign, taking into account the first and second rounds, can reach R$133.4 million. In just three days, Bolsonaro’s campaign spent R$4.5 million on YouTube alone. As much as the PT’s budget from the campaign fund and the electoral fund is bigger than Bolsonaro’s in total, going to the second round was a “victory” for Bolsonaro and his campaign team.

Additionally, the difference of 6.19 million votes, is a positive for Bolsonaro since the polls indicated a distance of up to 10% between Lula and Bolsonaro in the first round. But it is worth noting that Lula’s first round performance was the best he has had in any campaign he has ever run. This election is is a contest of rejection, not of voting intention as both candidates are widely known by the Brazilian voter. In the case of Bolsonaro, the question is whether or not the president deserves to be reelected. In the case of Lula, there is historically a level of rejection that gets more exacerbated during the election period.

Do you think both candidates and their supporters will accept the results of the election or could there be social unrest after the vote count is announced?

In an interview with Jornal Nacional, Bolsonaro said he would respect the results of the polls, but only if the elections were “clean and transparent”. The first round showed, as always, the electronic voting mechanism as safe and auditable, that the electoral process is 100% secure, and the TSE as a strong institution that watches over the entire electoral process. The shock troop, which for two years has been questioning this process and electronic voting, was elected in the first round and did not question the results of the ballot boxes anymore. But this group has now turned against the polls in the second round. The current Minister of Communications, Fábio Faria, went on a social network to ask Bolsonaro voters not to answer any polls. In other words, the agenda changes according to the prevailing need.

In a democracy, the free circulation of ideas is vital for its own strengthening: more information, data and research, strengthens the democratic debate. But ideas are one thing and conspiracy theories are another. With this, the president’s own questioning, first of the electronic ballot box and now of the polls, is a possible preparation, especially for the pro-government militancy, to question the outcome of the second round. Lula, his party, and the broad front have never questioned this process.

Considering the strong showing of Bolsonaro’s allies in both the legislative and gubernatorial races, will “Bolsonarismo” continue to exert strong power even without Bolsonaro in power?

The renewal of the chamber was only 39%. The new configuration of Congress is more conservative and with experienced politicians who have returned to power. Many have already served as governors, senators, and even presidential candidates, and in 2023 they will occupy many of the 513 seats in the House and 81 in the Senate. The fact is that the big winner of this election was the so-called “centrons”. With this more conservative Congress, agendas on customs and even the impeachment of members of the STF may be put on the agenda, if Bolsonaro is reelected.

If Lula wins the election, how difficult will it be for him to govern with a Congress that retains a strong presence of Bolsonaro sympathizers?

If Lula wins, he will have to negotiate more, which he does very well (see his two previous mandates). But the Brazil of 2023 will be very different from the Brazil of 2003. If Lula wins, the approach of the Executive with the Supreme Federal Court (STF) for a possible judicialization of the “secret budget” may enter the agenda of the Congress.

An important and even emblematic point is the Lula-Alckmin presidential ticket. This “broad front against authoritarianism” has the support of Simone Tebet, Marina Silva, the PDT of Ciro Gomes, Henrique Meirelles, Persio Arida, Armínio Fraga and the Plano Real team. It is a project that shows, right from the start, an immense capacity for mobilization. But, on the other hand, the opposition that Lula will face in Congress, whether in the House or the Senate, is extreme and mobilized.

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