Lula beats Bolsonaro in Brazil presidential election, result that may impact climate change

The left-wing president-elect has pledged to fight deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest.

Sulaiman Daud | October 31, 2022, 02:05 PM

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Jair Bolsonaro, the incumbent president of Brazil, has been defeated by his challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, after a heated election campaign.

Lula, 77, a left-wing politician, secured over 50.9 per cent of the votes, with 99 per cent of votes counted as of the morning of Oct. 31 (Singapore time), according to CNN.

Run-off victory after closely contested general election

Brazilians went to the polls on Oct. 2 in a general election.

Lula and Bolsonaro emerged as the top two candidates, out of a larger field.

Under Brazil's election system, this meant another run-off election after a month, as no candidate won at least 50 per cent of the vote.

In the general, Lula received around 48.43 per cent while Bolsonaro got 43.2 per cent. Brazilians directly elect their president by majority vote, there is no electoral college like in the United States.

This set the stage for the run-off election on Oct. 30.

Climate election

Of the myriad issues fought over in the campaign, perhaps the most significant was the candidate's stance on the Amazonian rainforest.

Lula promised an overhaul of environmental policy, including fighting deforestation and granting protected status to half a million square kilometres of the rainforest.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro said little about his proposed environmental policies, according to Reuters.

An opinion piece in the New York Times emphasised the enormous responsibility of the election winner, as he would set policy for the world's biggest rainforest, and by extension, the global climate.

A controversial incumbent

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, first rose to power in 2018, campaigning on "outsider" reputation and promising to clean up corruption.

He has been accused of making racist, sexist and homophobic statements, and has earned the nickname of "Trump of the Tropics", according to France24.

Bolsonaro also favoured a "hands-off" approach to environmental regulation, according to Al Jazeera.

Under the Bolsonaro administration, logging in the Amazon rainforest increased sharply.

Leaders of Brazil's indigenous communities and human rights groups have condemned Bolsonaro for his policies, which they claimed encourage the destruction of the rainforest while displacing the indigenous peoples and failing to protect them from attacks.


When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Bolsonaro notoriously disparaged the wearing of face masks, saying they led to headaches.

He also cast doubt over the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, leading the Brazilian supreme court to investigate one unfounded comment he made.

Bolsonaro said he would not get vaccinated.

Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic a year ago.

At the time, Brazil had seen over 600,000 deaths due to the virus. Over 680,000 have died from the virus to date, according to CNN.

Bolsonaro previously declared that "only God" could remove him from power.

The former factory worker

Lula is no stranger to the summit of Brazilian politics.

He served as president from 2003 to 2011 (with a break from 2006 to 2007), and was known for social welfare programmes that helped lift people out of poverty.

In his youth, he left school before the age of 12 to support his family.

He found work as a shoeshine boy and in a factory, where he lost a finger while operating a machine.

He became interested in the labour movement and joined trade union politics, and from there, was elected as a Congressman. He helped found the left-wing Workers' Party and unsuccessfully ran for president a number of times before finally winning in 2002.

Despite his popularity (recording an approval rating of 90 per cent upon his departure from office), he was caught up in Operation Car Wash, Brazil's largest corruption probe.

He was convicted and sentenced to jail for corruption and money-laundering in 2017, but a Brazilian court annulled his criminal convictions in 2021, which paved the way for his election campaign.

International congratulations

A number of world leaders congratulated Lula upon his victory, including U.S. President Joe Biden.

Argentina's president Alberto Fernandez also congratulated his neighbour, saying a time of hope "begins today".

Top image from Pop Crave Twitter.