Lula walks into an unprecedented third term with Brazil's tightest run-off victory

While Bolsonaro has yet to publicly acknowledge the outcome, support appears limited for challenging the election results

On the Monday immediately following the presidential elections results, the Brazilian real strengthened 2% to 5.18 BRL and Ibovespa jumped 1.3%, signaling hesitant tranquility in face of the results. However, this rally will likely be short-lived, and moving forward, Lula must move to appoint his new Cabinet to help shape the tone of his policy agenda. A few names could be announced by Lula as part of his transition team in the coming days, but it may take longer until key names are eventually confirmed as ministers. For the minister of finance position, a key figure in ensuring fiscal responsibility, some of the most floated names are long-time politicians from the PT, several of whom are former or current Northeast governors, such as Wellington Dias, Jaques Wagner, Rui Costa, and Jorge Viana.


After Sunday’s presidential run-off, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) won with 50.9% of the valid votes; the right-wing candidate and incumbent, President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), received 49.1% of the votes. Despite the win, Lula heads into an unprecedented third term with a fragile popular and political mandate. The vote difference separating Lula from Bolsonaro was 2.1 million votes, the smallest voter differential in a runoff since re-democratization. In his previous terms, Lula’s margin of victory was well over 15 million votes. The president-elect is scheduled to be sworn into office on January 1, 2023.

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Lula’s victory was marked by a widening of his margin in the Northeast (relative to the PT’s 2018 second-round showing) and the retention of an advantage, albeit a much smaller one, in Minas Gerais, vis-à-vis the first round. At the time of writing, President Bolsonaro had yet to acknowledge the election results. However, the positions of important allies since Sunday’s results signal that the cost of contesting the elections has risen significantly in recent days. Within hours of the victory announcement, important government figures came out emphasizing the sovereignty of electoral outcomes, showcasing limited support for challenging the election results. Looking ahead into the challenges of a Lula government, optimizing governability will be key. President-elect Lula must manage a center-right leaning Congress and a much thinner popular mandate than in his previous two terms. If economic and social promises do not succeed, Lula’s new government may face serious legitimacy difficulties.

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