‘Trump of the Tropics’ Will Face ‘the Brazilian Bernie Sanders’ in Brazil Presidential Runoff

Brazil’s presidential election is headed for overtime: leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro will face off in an Oct. 30 runoff election.


Brazil’s presidential election is headed for overtime: leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro will face off in an Oct. 30 runoff election.

  • Da Silva finished first in Brazil’s presidential election but without the majority support necessary to avoid a runoff with Bolsonaro.
  • Bolsonaro outperformed polls and expectations by finishing within 5 points of da Silva, widely known as “Lula.” One pre-election poll gave Lula a 14-percentage-point lead over the incumbent, but on Sunday Lula finished with 48.4% to Bolsonaro’s 43.2% vote share.
  • Financial markets were “cheered” by Bolsonaro’s unexpectedly strong showing.
  • Observers predicted the close finish may force Lula to adopt more moderate economic policies and limit his ability to push dramatic policy changes should the former socialist president return to the office he held from 2003-2010.
  • Allies of the right-wing incumbent won elections to congress and state governorships, indicating Bolsonaro’s support runs deeper than the pre-election polls suggested.
  • The two candidates disagree sharply on economic development in the Amazon rainforest, fiscal policies, and corruption. The intense and polarizing election has been dominated by personal attacks. Lula called his opponent a “madman.”
  • In turn, Bolsonaro labeled Lula a “thief,” referring to corruption charges that landed Lula in jail for nearly 2 years before they were overturned.
  • Bolsonaro and Lula have just under a month to sway voters in the world’s fourth largest democracy before the highly competitive runoff on October 30.
  • A Bolsonaro reelection would break with the string of left-wing victories across Latin America in recent years.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times called the runoff “a major test for one of the world’s largest democracies” and “the most important vote in decades” for Latin America’s largest country.
  • CNN noted both frontrunners are no stranger to controversy. Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Amazon rainforest has been subject to criticism, while Lula was convicted on corruption and money laundering charges as part of the “Operation Car Wash” kickback probe.
  • The Guardian explained why Sunday’s results were a disappointment to the left. Progressives hoped for “an empathic repudiation of Bolsonaro’s presidency” but instead were treated to “massively dispiriting” electoral results, even though Bolsonaro is the first incumbent to head into a runoff in second place since the 1980s.



  • Fox News highlighted Bolsonaro’s over-performance compared to the polls, comparing the results with Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Breitbart noted Bolsonaro notched “significant gains” in multiple urban regions where local governors imposed coronavirus lockdowns against Bolsonaro’s opposition.
  • The Wall Street Journal pointed out a Lula victory would mean every major Latin American country –  including Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Venezuela – would be led by a leftist or far-left government.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022