Article @ Novara Media, published 30 September 2022
Nine days before this weekend’s election, Brazilian leftist firebrand Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva posted a picture of himself on social media. Smiling from ear to ear, both his hands stretched out to the camera, the former president reminded voters that the final countdown is on. It’s a meme-worthy image, with the joke lying in the fact that Lula, a former metalworker, has a missing finger following a work accident aged 19. “Nine days to go,” he wrote on Twitter.
It’s a funny joke, but it is also exemplary of what Lula means to the Brazilian voter – to the ones who love him and the ones who don’t. He is the offspring of the country’s harshest poverty, a man who was imprisoned by the dictatorship for leading a series of mass strikes, and the first and only working-class person to ever reach the presidency. This is perhaps the most important because Brazil is, and has always been, a profoundly divided nation, especially on gender, race and class lines. In this respect, Lula’s election in 2003 and his candidacy in 2022 are much alike: they serve as examples of democracy, the great leveller, in action.
On Sunday, 2 October, half of the Brazilian population will take to the polls. That’s an extraordinary 156,454,011 people who must, by law, cast their ballot. They have a choice of 11 candidates, ranging from a Christian democrat, a rightwing libertarian and a histrionic centre-right leader; to two Trotskyist parties, a Marxist-Leninist option, and Ciro Gomes, Brazil’s favourite social democratic Candide. Ultimately, however, only two men matter: Lula and Jair Messias Bolsonaro, the incumbent.