Brazilians headed to the polls in October to elect a new president in a bruising runoff between two candidates offering starkly different visions for the future of Latin America’s biggest democracy.
The vote came after a long and ugly campaign that pitted the right-wing incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, against the two-term former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Mr. Bolsonaro rallied supporters around what he called a leftist attack on family values and individual liberties. He cast academics, the media and even democratic institutions, including Brazil’s Congress and Supreme Court, as enemies.
Mr. Lula, who ultimately won the election, vowed to govern for all Brazilians, while returning the country to a more prosperous past, though his history of corruption scandals divided voters.
Much of the campaign, which was marked by misinformation and vicious online attacks, devolved into mudslinging with little discussion of the challenges the country’s next leader would face.
What were the issues?
The election came at a crucial moment for Brazil, where surging food and fuel prices, coupled with a painful economic slowdown, have caused poverty to surge, reversing decades of social and economic progress.
Environmental and climate worries also loomed large. Deforestation in the Amazon hit 15-year highs under Mr. Bolsonaro, who weakened environmental protections and argued that the rainforest should be opened to mining, ranching and agriculture. The Amazon’s destruction — and its effects on the efforts to avert a climate crisis — has turned Brazil into a global outcast.
There were also concerns about the health of Brazil’s democracy. Mr. Bolsonaro sowed doubts about the integrity of the electoral system, claiming without evidence that the country’s electronic voting machines could be rigged. His efforts fueled worries at home and abroad that a potential loss for Mr. Bolsonaro would prompt him to rally his millions of supporters to take to the streets and demand that he remain in power.
What did Mr. Lula propose?
Mr. Lula oversaw an era of growth during his two terms in office, when a commodity-fueled boom turned Brazil into a global success story. He promised to return the country to those glory days.
The leftist candidate vowed to raise taxes on the rich and boost public spending, “putting the people in the budget.” His plans include a slew of social programs, such as a $113 monthly cash voucher rivaling the one proposed by Mr. Bolsonaro. Poor families with children will also receive an additional $28 per month for each child under 6.
Mr. Lula also promised to adjust Brazil’s minimum wage in step with inflation and revive a housing plan for the poor, while guaranteeing food security for people facing hunger.
A former trade unionist, Mr. Lula planned to kick-start growth and “create work and employment opportunities” by spending on infrastructure. But he also planned to invest in a “green economy,” warning that Brazil must shift to more sustainable energy and food systems.
On the Amazon, Mr. Lula has signaled that he will crack down on environmental crimes by militias, land grabbers, loggers and others.
What did Mr. Bolsonaro propose?
Mr. Bolsonaro promised to hand out cash payments of about $113 a month to needy families, extending a temporary policy originally created to ease the pandemic’s blow. The plan was designed to “reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable economic growth,” according to Mr. Bolsonaro’s official policy plan.
Ahead of the election, Mr. Bolsonaro spent heavily on welfare and fuel subsidies.
He also pledged to create jobs by eliminating bureaucratic red tape, slashing taxes and investing in technology. In a further nod to business leaders, who provided him vital support during his first run for president, Mr. Bolsonaro said he would maintain a free market approach and keep public debt in check.
Echoing the rhetoric that won him support from ultraconservative and evangelical voters four years ago, Mr. Bolsonaro also promised to defend “the family,” opposing legal abortion and transgender education in schools.
Mr. Bolsonaro also promised to expand tough-on-crime policies, pledging to further expand access to firearms, a policy he credits for a drop in violent crime across Brazil.
How did Mr. Bolsonaro sow doubts about the election’s legitimacy?
Brazilians cast ballots on electronic voting machines, a system that has been in place for more than two decades and that has been the focus of Mr. Bolsonaro’s claims about the risk of election fraud.
Mr. Bolsonaro has framed a hack of Brazil’s election agency in 2018 as evidence of fraud, although an investigation showed that the hackers were not able to change vote totals or access voting machines.
Mr. Bolsonaro has also pointed to Mr. Lula’s past corruption charges, which were nullified, as proof that he was a thief planning to steal the vote.
Flawed polls also raised questions about the credibility of polling firms and gave credence to Mr. Bolsonaro’s claims that the surveys did not accurately reflect his popularity. In the first round of voting, Mr. Lula won 48 percent of the vote, while Mr. Bolsonaro received 43 percent, significantly outperforming pre-election polls.