With party convention season upon us and Brazil’s political groups making their presidential candidates official, the 2022 race can properly begin.
The country is under no illusions that it is about to experience the most crucial and disputed election since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. The field, meanwhile, is tighter than ever. Barring an unforeseen event, the election will be a two-horse race: between incumbent far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and center-left former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — who has enjoyed a significant head start according to opinion polls.
In 2018, Mr. Bolsonaro won the election as an anti-political outsider. He was able to gloss over the fact that he had held office in Brasília for almost three decades and portrayed himself as the antithesis of what he called “old politics” — and the cronyism, horse-trading, and corruption scandals that go with that label.
Now, after almost four years as president — overseeing a government of cronyism, horse-trading, and corruption scandals — the anti-politics image can no longer stick. Instead, he is focusing all his attention on his radical-right support base, which has done him no favors on the national stage.
While his backers are loyal and numerous, they are no longer the majority. And they cannot beat Lula on their own.
Lula, meanwhile, has his eyes set firmly on the finish line. Far from the leftist discourse of his time out of office, the former president is seeking to woo all comers, reminding the electorate of “how good life was” when he was in charge — something even Mr. Bolsonaro begrudgingly admits.
Despite the broad consensus of polls, we can safely say that the race to the presidency will be anything but cut and dried. But Lula is well ahead.