President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (pictured, centre) took office yesterday in a ceremony that had many Brazilians breathing a sigh of relief. With performances by sambista Martinho da Vila and pop star Pabllo Vittar – and the presidents of Argentina and Colombia and the King of Spain in the audience – the inauguration officially put an end to Jair Bolsonaro’s four-year term.
Progressive Brazilians like me are happy to see him go. During Bolsonaro’s time in office, deforestation and illegal logging rates increased, inequality widened and poverty rates soared. His administration’s poor handling of the pandemic also killed nearly 700,000 Brazilians. Lula will no doubt inherit many of these issues. And while Brazilians are right to be hopeful, the months ahead will not be easy.
Lula, who was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006, is remembered for lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty through radical social programmes. Jailed for corruption in 2018 under the right-wing Temer administration, he was able to make a political comeback after the Supreme Court quashed his convictions in 2021.
But the left-winger will govern a country that’s deeply divided and remarkably different from the one that he once led. About 58 million Brazilians voted for Bolsonaro in the second round and while they didn’t get their way, his supporters are unlikely to peel off their bumper stickers any time soon. For the most part, it appears that Bolsonaro’s brand of conservatism is here to stay.
Meanwhile, in congress, Lula will have to strike deals and liaise with the Centrão, a centrist coalition of largely self-serving politicians who have mostly sided with Bolsonaro in recent years, to get legislation through. He will need nimble negotiation skills and patience to govern. But I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how he does it.
Carolina Abbott Galvão is a writer at Monocle.