RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Brazil’s two presidential candidates sought to firm up support in their traditional bases on Wednesday, with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva campaigning among the poor in Rio de Janeiro’s Alemao slum and incumbent Jair Bolsonaro appearing among the faithful at the vast Aparecida basilica in Sao Paulo state.
Earlier this month, da Silva, Brazil’s former president who governed from 2003 to 2010, topped the first round of voting with over 48 per cent support. Bolsonaro got 43 per cent support.
Since neither received enough votes to win outright they are now headed to a October 30 runoff.
In Alemao, surrounded by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and local community leaders, da Silva attacked his opponent’s public security and education policies.
“The State only shows up in the community through the police; we have to end this!” said the man universally known as Lula. “Before the police comes, health, culture, education must come.”
In favelas and outskirts of large cities, da Silva has regained much of the ground his party had lost in recent years, and especially in the 2018 presidential elections.
“This is the big turning point from 2018 to 2022,” Open Society Foundations’ executive director for Latin America said Pedro Abramovay. Many Brazilians were disappointed by Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, in which nearly 700,000 people died – one of the world’s largest tallies.
Still, the Workers’ Party candidate trails more than 10 per centage points behind Bolsonaro in the state of Rio, and seven points in Sao Paulo – two important states.
Bolsonaro and other political analysts are also waiting to see what impact the current government’s spending spree ahead of this year’s elections will have in poorer areas.
Bolsonaro backed Congress when it raised subsidies in July – the equivalent of about USD7.6 billion – to increase welfare benefits, a subsidy for cooking gas and create cash-transfer programmes for truck drivers and taxis.
This month, the president brought forward payments of the welfare programme, so that it would land in the bank accounts of millions of families before the second round of the election.
He also included some 500,000 more families into the programme and promised a 13th instalment to single mothers.
“I think it is safe to say that if it weren’t for the help of the Auxilio Brasil (welfare programme), Lula would have won in the first round,” Abramovay said.