What is the state of mind of Brazilians as the elections approach?

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How are Brazilians feeling as the elections approach?

Lula supporters in Brasilia on September 16, 2022.< /p>

Brazilians will go to the polls on October 2 in a difficult economic context, after a pandemic that has taken its toll.

Current President Jair Bolsonaro and ex-President Luiz Inacio da Silva (Lula) are expected to advance to the second round, which will take place on October 30.

Lula, extremely popular during his two terms (from 2002 to 2010), is trying to return to the head of the country. But his run-ins with the law (convicted of corruption, he spent a year and a half in prison before being cleared) tarnished his image with some Brazilians.

Jair Bolsonaro, for his part, emerges diminished from the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 684,000 Brazilians, one of the worst results in the world. His reckless attitude to COVID-19, described by some as negationist or even genocidal, could, according to some analysts, cost him re-election.

Tens of thousands of supporters of President Bolsonaro gathered in Sao Paulo to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Brazil's independence, September 7, 2022.

Since the start of the campaign, the polls have given Lula an advantage, but the gap has narrowed over the months. According to the polls, neither should get more than 50% of the vote in the first ballot. The carryover of the votes of the other candidates and the undecided will probably determine the winner.

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Aged 76, Lula was President of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. Benefiting from a favorable economic situation, he set up generous social programs, applauded all over the world. But he was convicted in a corruption scandal, uncovered after his departure. His conviction was later overturned on a formality, allowing him to run for president again.

Jair Bolsonaro, 67, is a former army captain. Conservative, Catholic, he defends the family and traditional values. Under his tenure, the number of firearms in circulation has skyrocketed and deforestation in the Amazon has accelerated. During the pandemic, he opposed confinement, questioning the severity of the virus, which led to him being threatened with charges including crimes against humanity.

< p class="e-p">The country's economic situation, disastrous after the pandemic, has improved somewhat in recent months.

The economic outlook is improving rapidly, says Marcelo Kfoury, a professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Economics in Sao Paulo. We are already above pre-pandemic levels.

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The numbers are also good when it comes to employment. The unemployment rate was 9.3% in the second quarter, lower than before the pandemic. This still represents more than 12 million people looking for work.

In addition, these figures do not show the whole reality, since a large number of workers Brazilians, about a third according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), hold informal, uncounted jobs.

Some 53% of Brazilians say that the economic situation will determine their choice on October 2.

Finally, even if people are working, their salaries have not kept up with the increase in the cost of life. Consequence: real incomes are falling.

“Food prices are at a high level and people are blaming the president for that, even though it's not his fault. It's like everywhere in the world: if people are fed up with inflation, they blame the rulers. »

— Marcelo Kfoury, professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo

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During the health crisis, President Bolsonaro put in place a special program that enabled more than 66 million Brazilians to get through this difficult period. But it has long since ended, while many are still struggling to make ends meet.

Some 30% of Brazilians, or 63 million people, live on less than R$497 per month (C$126), including 7%, or 15.5 million people, who are below the international poverty line, with R$172 (CA$43).

That's 9.6 million more people than in 2019, for a rate not seen since 2012, when those numbers went up. started to be compiled. 2021 is the peak poverty point [for all] tested samples, income concepts, indicators and poverty lines, write the authors of the Map of the New Poverty (Mapa da Nova Pobreza) report, published in June 2022.

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This impoverishment explains why many Brazilians turn to Lula, who is remembered as the one who lifted millions of people out of poverty during his two terms at the helm of the country, with social programs such as Bolsa Família and Hunger. zero (Fome Zero).

Jair Bolsonaro understood this well. Feeling hot as the polls approach, he increased the monthly allowance for low-income households, renamed Auxilio Brasil (Assistance Brazil), from R$400 (C$101) to R$600 (C$152) in June. A purely electoral decision which will not be enough to convince the poorest to vote for him, believes Marcelo Kfoury.

They consider that Lula takes care of the poor better than Bolsonaro, notes Mr. Kfoury. It was for this reason that Bolsonaro was so desperate to increase the Auxilio Brasil allocation at the last minute. It seems, however, that the people who received it remained loyal to Lula. We did not see a big shift in the vote towards Bolsonaro among those who received this monthly allowance.

According to an FSB poll, 63% of people who receive the allowance are preparing to vote for Lula and 20% for Bolsonaro, which is in line with the voting intentions of the poorest Brazilians.

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Many blame the policies of the Bolsonaro government for the worsening of the situation.

It has done almost nothing [to fighting hunger], on the contrary, it has dismantled existing public policies, which aimed to promote food security and family farming, argues Catia Grisa, professor of rural development at the Federal University Rio Grande do Sul, in Porto Alegre.

People collect fruits and vegetables from a dumpster in Belem on November 4, 2021.

He ended the public food supply program, the Bolsa Familia program, as well as support for peasant agriculture, she denounces, in addition to dissolving the National Food Security Council, a decried decision by international organizations fighting against hunger.

“Before, the government had programs to promote both family farming and large-scale agriculture. Since Bolsonaro came to power, he has only established policies for big agriculture. There is no longer a plan for family farming. »

— Catia Grisa, professor at the Federal University Rio Grande do Sul, in Porto Alegre

The pandemic made things worse, but food insecurity and hunger were already in increase for several years, observes Ms. Grisa.

According to a study by the Brazilian Research Network on Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security (PENSSAN Network), 58.7% of Brazilians suffer from of food insecurity. Half of them do not eat enough or consume poor quality food.

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President Bolsonaro, however, denies the extent of the problem. Hunger doesn't really exist in Brazil, he argued, before acknowledging that some were suffering from it, but the numbers were inflated. However, he plans to maintain the Auxilio Brasil allowance at R$600.

Lula, for his part, has made it one of the major issues of his campaign. On several occasions, he insisted on the right to food and the fact that he would like to ensure that the population can again eat three times a day. He plans to renew and expand policies like Bolsa Familia and implement a national food supply policy.

Lula addresses the leaders of the National Solidarity Economy Forum, in Sao Paulo, September 14, 2022.

His speech, however, is turned towards the past, laments Paulo Niederle, professor at the Department of Sociology of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.

His idea is to reconstruct a coexistence between export agribusiness and family farming aimed at internal markets. But I am not convinced that this coexistence can be reconstructed because there are quite strong conflicts between these two sectors.

He also wants to reinstate public procurement and distribution programs for people experiencing food insecurity, such as the famous Bolsa Familia program.

“We can't just go back to the past, we have to innovate in public policy. But what does he offer about it? It's not clear. »

— Paulo Niederle, professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul

Lula garners a lot of support among the poorest, but not everyone will vote for him. As in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro can count on the support of evangelicals, recalls Lorena Barberia, professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Sao Paulo.

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Pastors of evangelical churches are trying to bring votes to Bolsonaro, whom they see as the candidate most inclined to defend traditional values, she notes. His wife, Michelle is herself a member of this Church.

According to a survey by the Datafolha Institute, 60% of Brazilian voters think it is more important for a presidential candidate to defend family values ​​than a good economic program.

The weight of the evangelical churches, to which a little less than a third of the Brazilian population belongs, is considerable. Evangelicals have 112 out of 513 congressmen.

Another remarkable divide is that between men and women. They prefer Lula, they choose Bolsonaro.

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This is the first time we've seen such a gap, notes Barberia. Brazilian women particularly disapprove of his sexist comments and his decision to liberalize the carrying of weapons.

But they represent 53% of the electorate. In an attempt to rally them to his cause, Jair Bolsonaro appealed to his wife, who accompanied him in a few appearances during the campaign.

Will this be enough to convince the Brazilian women?

Anyway, the president does nothing to assuage their fears of armed violence, he who questions the credibility of the electoral system and encourages his supporters to arm themselves.

With information from Agence France-Presse, and Reuters

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