Lula leads the first round of the Brazilian Presidential election – but fears grow of Bolsonaro power-grab


“After the first round of the Brazilian election, Lula da Silva leads with 48.5% of the vote equating to over 57 million votes. This is the second best Brazilian Workers Party first round performance in history and gives Lula a strong lead going into the second round.”

By the Brazil Solidarity Initiative

The first round of the Brazilian election took place on October 1st, in one what can only be described as the biggest battle against the far-right globally. Incumbent far-right President Bolsonaro faced off against former trade union leader and Workers Party (PT) President Lula da Silva, who’s time in office left a legacy of huge poverty reduction and transformative social change – in particular for workers rights, health and education.

The outcome of this election will have a huge impact on Brazil, Latin America and the globe. The future of the amazon commonly called the “lungs of the planet”, and the lives of the indigenous and environmental defenders who protect it, are at stake.

After the first round of the Brazilian election, Lula da Silva leads with 48.5% of the vote equating to over 57 million votes. This is the second best PT first round performance in history and gives Lula a strong lead going into the second round of the election on October 30th. 

Please read our statement in defence of Brazilian democracy in the face of growing political violence and threats of a power grab from Bolsonaro; and join us in calling for international solidarity with Lula and the campaign against the far-right.

On Sunday, progressive candidate Lula Da Silva came top in the first round of Brazil’s Presidential election. Lula won 48.43% of the vote, with over 57 million voters backing him at the ballot box. 

Despite the impression given in some media reports, this was not a close election. Lula received over 6 million more votes than his nearest rival, the far-right incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro, who came second with 42.20%. 

In the first round, over 118 million votes were cast with Lula just 1.5% short of passing the 50% threshold needed to win the presidency in the first round. There will now be a second-round run-off on October 30th.

Lula’s result was one of the best in the history of his Workers Party (PT).  It has fielded a presidential candidate eight times and won the presidency four times since the return of democracy to Brazil in 1985. This year was the second best performance in a first round in the party’s history. It also marked the first time since the return of democracy that a challenger has defeated an incumbent in the first round of a presidential election.

Lula’s strong support reflected the successes of his previous term in office after being elected as Brazil’s first working class president in 2003. 

Then his social programs helped lift tens of millions from poverty and his government tackled the deep-rooted inequality and discrimination that continue to scar Brazil. As a result, when Lula left office in 2011 he had record-high approval ratings of 83 per cent.

He was then the favourite to win the 2018 Presidential election until he was arrested and jailed on trumped-up charges orchestrated by powerful elites in Brazil and Washington. This was part of an anti-democratic turn by Brazil’s right wing. Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s successor as President and his former Chief of Staff, was ousted as President in 2016 via a parliamentary coup. 

The unjust jailing of Lula opened the door to the 2018 election of Jair Bolsonaro, a strong supporter of Brazil’s past military dictatorship under which he had served as a military officer. In office, Bolsonaro has repeatedly undermined Brazil’s democracy and trampled on the rights of women, LGBT, Black & Indigenous communities and environmental activists. 

His attacks on democratic freedoms have left many fearing that Bolsonaro may not accept the results if he is defeated in the run-off on 30th October. Bolsonaro is known as the “Trump of the Tropics” and some fear he could seek to imitate Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ tactics. Bolsonaro maintains close links with Trump’s former key strategist Steve Bannon who has described Brazil’s 2022 presidential election as the “most important of all time in South America”. 

Already, in the run-up to the first-round vote, Bolsonaro and his cabinet ministers, nearly half of whom are military generals, baselessly sought to bring into question the integrity of the election process. They suggested that the military should have a greater role in overseeing the election and even threatened to reject the results if Bolsonaro loses. Bolsonaro told supporters that “If necessary, we will go to war” over the election results. While his son called on the growing number of Brazilian gun-holders to become “Bolsonaro volunteers”.

Such threats and the climate of hate whipped up by Bolsonaro and his allies have created a context of rising political violence against supporters of Lula. Lula supporters have been killed and there have been attacks on officials from his Worker’s Party and pro-Lula marches.

We believe that it is for Brazilian people alone to choose their next president. But in the run-off to 30 October, all progressives must be alert to the threats posed by Jair Bolsonaro to Brazil’s democracy; the use of political violence to sway the election results and any attempts to prevent the peaceful transfer of power should Lula win

Ahead of the election run-off, we call on the UK Government to speak out against any efforts to incite political violence or undermine the electoral process and to make clear that it will review relations with any Brazilian government that comes to power through undemocratic means. 

  • This statement was originally published by the Brazil Solidarity Initiative on October 4th, 2022.
  • You can help build the call for international solidarity and vigilance over the second round of the election by sharing the statement on Facebook and twitter.
  • The second round of the Brazilian presidential election takes place on October 30th.
Featured image: Marcelo Freixo and Lula da Silva at the Unidos da Tijuca, July 2022. Photo credit: Marcelo Freixo under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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