Bolsonaro’s departure will put Brazil back on the international stage both in the fight against climate change and in efforts to establish peace and democracy in Latin America, especially in neighboring Venezuela. At the same time, President Lula will ensure the return to normal functioning of the institutions, somewhat destabilized by Bolsonaro, while declining an economic and social agenda marked on the left. But he will struggle to manage a conservative congress and bring together a highly polarized country. Many Brazilians still blame his party, the PT, for a huge corruption scandal (Lava Jato). They also blame him for the 2014-2016 recession, from which the economy never quite recovered.
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Lula says his priority is to help the poor. He promised to increase aid, to erase certain debts and to set up a vast infrastructure program in order to revive growth and create jobs.
But Brazil’s economy is in a much tougher position than when it first came to power in 2003. If its government follows through on its intention to replace spending caps with a looser fiscal rule, it will have to convince markets that it has no intention of embarking on a spending binge – otherwise interest rates will skyrocket and the currency will weaken. His plans to make taxation simpler and more progressive could help growth, but are unlikely to be approved by the Conservative Congress. Privatizations and public sector reforms are even less likely to pass.
Lula will more easily obtain environmental successes. His first task will be to revive various federal protection agencies whose budgets have been cut and staff reduced under Bolsonaro. The hope is that stricter law enforcement will bring down the rate of deforestation, especially in the Amazon, which plays a crucial role in slowing climate change. It is likely that Lula will seek greater cooperation between Amazonian countries and increased international funding for sustainable economic development, a necessary condition to deter poor Amazonians from illegally participating in mining, ranching and agriculture. felling of trees. Brazil’s “green economy” is still just an idea. Making it a reality will require research and disinvestment, particularly in the scientific and technological fields.
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Although Lula is an experienced politician, he will find it difficult to form a governing coalition in Congress. Jair Bolsonaro’s party is now the largest in both chambers; his hard-right allies will seek to block the leftist president’s agenda whenever possible. Lula will try to make deals with center-right parties who, in exchange for their support, will demand a share of the budget and official positions. The new president will have the task facilitated if, at the end of the elections organized in February to appoint the presidents of the Senate and the lower house, it is not Bolsonarists who have these positions.
Bolsonarism will remain, probably well beyond 2023, a powerful force in Brazilian society. More than 58 million Brazilians voted for Bolsonaro. He keeps a large mass of loyal supporters whom he can mobilize at will – for example in case he is prosecuted for his mishandling of the pandemic. Many Bolsonarian voters no longer trust institutions like the mainstream media or the Supreme Court, preferring to stay in the echo chambers of the right. Lula will find it very difficult to rally them. Brazil will remain polarized for years.
Sarah Maslin, correspondent in Brazil for The Economist