New GIGA Focus Latin America | Back from the Depths: Brazil, the World and the EU after Lula’s Electoral Victory
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known broadly as “Lula”) has defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential election. As the Global South giant emerges from the isolation and loss of influence imposed by Bolsonaro’s right-wing anti-globalist agenda, how can Germany and Europe best engage it with a view to resuming a key strategic partnership?
Brazil’s relations with the EU and Germany are at a historical postwar low. Normative differences with a Bolsonaro government driven by extreme right-wing domestic constituencies have stalled trade and climate negotiations, led to clashes on human rights and deforestation, and caused what were once regular high-level contacts to ebb to a trickle.
The election itself was decided by a razor-thin margin and marred by voter suppression, contestations of its legitimacy, and pervasive electoral violations by Bolsonaro. The incumbent has not formally conceded, and his supporters were still in the streets a week after the vote. Assistance in asserting the functioning of the country’s democratic institutions is urgently needed.
Lula will realign the country with its multilateral diplomatic traditions and seek to reinstate social policies cancelled by Bolsonaro, such as poverty reduction, human rights, and safeguards for minorities, as well as environmental protection and sustainable development. This will align Brazil increasingly with Europe. But today’s scenario is different from Lula’s first two terms in office between 2003 and 2011: the National Congress is hostile to Lula’s agenda, there is no commodity boom, and a polarised and unequal international system has less room for the rise of an emerging power.