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News > Brazil

Brazilian Left to Face Far-Right in 2024 Municipal Elections

  • Workers' Party militants, 2023.

    Workers' Party militants, 2023. | Photo: X/ @EdineuzaNobre15

Published 1 January 2024

These elections will be a thermometer of the voters' mood leading up to the 2026 presidential contest.

The municipal elections in October will pose the greatest political challenge for President Lula da Silva in 2024, a year that brings a new clash with the far-right led by Jair Bolsonaro.


Lula Managed to Increase 515,000 Jobs in Brazil in 2023

Lula completes the first year of his new term on January 1, and all his political focus is already on the municipal elections. Starting in March, when the candidates begin to be defined, the country will once again be immersed in a campaign atmosphere.

Despite their local nature, these elections, in which mayors of 5,568 municipalities will be renewed, are considered a thermometer of the federal government's management halfway through the four-year term and of the voters' mood leading up to the 2026 presidential elections.

This time, they will have added value as they will once again pit the progressive movement embodied by Lula against the radical far-right led by Bolsonaro. Furthermore, they will test the pragmatic and diverse coalition formed by Lula with parties ranging from the left to the more moderate right, which will participate divided in these elections.

"We don't know how this election will be, but I sincerely believe it will be Lula against Bolsonaro again, competing in the municipalities," said the progressive leader in a recent congress of the Workers' Party (PT), which he founded in 1980.

"We will have to show that it is better to live in a democracy than under authoritarianism," Lula pointed out, alluding to Bolsonaro, a retired Army captain nostalgic for dictatorships who, during his term (2019-2022), maintained a constant struggle with democratic institutions.

Bolsonaro, ineligible but in permanent campaign mode

The far-right leader paid a high price this year for multiple irregularities during the 2022 campaign against Lula, to the extent that the Electoral Justice declared him "ineligible" for eight years, during which he cannot run for any office.

Nevertheless, Bolsonaro has stated that the upcoming municipal elections will be a platform to "defend his legacy" and reconquer the votes of conservative voters. Since mid-year, he has traveled the country and rebuilt the far-right for the municipal elections, with a tough discourse against Lula's administration and progressivism in general.

In almost every city Bolsonaro has visited, he has gathered crowds and encouraged the political polarization that has marked the country in recent years.

As the leader of the Liberal Party (PL), Bolsonaro maintains that his intention is for the party to have its own candidates in around 3,000 of the 5,568 cities, including the 26 regional capitals.

The goal is to win "at least" a thousand and give "capillarity" to the far-right for the 2026 presidential elections, where he still cannot run but intends to have a handpicked candidate.

Lula freezes his international agenda for the municipal elections

With less fanfare than Bolsonaro, Lula has also started campaigning for the municipal elections and has begun with Sao Paulo, the country's most populous city, where the progressive movement will have congressman Guilherme Boulos as its mayoral candidate.

A socialist, 41 years old, and leader of the homeless movement, Boulos has been chosen by Lula to face the Bolsonarism governing São Paulo, where the clash between progressivism and the far-right is expected to be more intense.

During the inauguration of an affordable housing project, Lula was in Sao Paulo in mid-December and turned the event into a rally in support of Boulos.

On that day, he announced that he would take a break from his international agenda in 2024 to "travel around Brazil," with the undisguised goal of promoting his candidates and reversing the setback suffered by the left in the 2020 municipal elections.

In those elections, the center and the right aligned with Bolsonaro won in almost 70 percent of the mayoralties, and the PT won only in 182 cities, with its worst municipal result in history.

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