Brazil Presidential Election Odds: Bolsonaro Closing The Gap On Lula

Brazil Presidential Election Odds: Bolsonaro Closing The Gap On Lula
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Jair Bolsonaro faces an uphill battle to win the next Brazilian election – according to political betting sites – but the president is regaining ground on rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) in the polls.

Bolsonaro was a shock winner of the 2018 election and has since endured a controversial reign as Brazil’s president. His populist policies have fuelled division in the country to such an extent that more than half of Brazilians recently said they would never vote for him again.

His poll ratings heading into the election cycle have persistently fallen below that of Lula, the former president who is seeking to lead a leftist revolution in the country.

Bolsonaro, a former military official, has been widely criticised for his stance on the Covid-19 pandemic in which Brazil has suffered more than 660,000 deaths. He still insists he hasn’t had the vaccine.

And while his rhetoric has put many Brazilians off voting for him, it appears as though he is enjoying a fresh surge in support.

According to the Guardian, Bolsonaro has cast a Trumpian “spell” over many conservatives and is once again winning support across the country. And bookmakers have begun to pick up on the possibility of a successful second term for the 67-year-old.

Brazil Politics Betting

According to several betting sites, Bolsonaro is 2.24 to win the October election. That’s a shift from 4.0 set by bookies back in February, and indicates a 44% possibility of him winning.

To put this into context, Lula’s odds of 1.50 gave him a 72% chance of returning to the presidency. He is now priced as wide as 1.66 (60%).

The shift in odds is largely down to Bolsonaro’s successful recent campaigning, in which he has toured Brazil whipping up support. Last year, some polls had Lula leading by as many as 27 points. But right now that advantage has been cut to nine.

Of course, bookmakers also have to adjust their odds to adhere to market trends. Lula currently boasts 55% of all wagers in the Brazilian election betting odds, while just 28% of punters are backing Bolsonaro. This perhaps explains why online betting sites still give Lula a greater chance of winning than the polls.

Brazil’s election will almost certainly be a one-on-one between these two political behemoths. The presidential election works much like that in France, where the public initially votes in the first round to cut the number of candidates down to just two.

If no single candidate wins more than 50% of the vote then a second round of voting takes place later in October. It’s this second round that is expected to pit Bolsonaro against Lula.

Bolsonaro Fresh Surge

Bolsonaro has begun ramping up his early election campaigning in recent weeks, and has pumped millions of dollars into welfare to attract voters who are less well off. Loosening gun laws, cutting red tape for environmental exploitation, and social conservatism are all out of the Trump playbook.

And it seems to be working. Bolsonaro enjoys support from a wide range of demographics in Brazil – and it’s not just those who live outside mega cities like Sao Paulo who are planning to vote for the incumbent.

The big issue he faces, however, is nostalgia. Lula is viewed as a former president who brought growth and hope to the country between 2003 and 2010, and his support is also rising. Granted, the gap between the two candidates is slimming, but Lula still holds the lead.

Lula has a polling lead in most metropolitan areas and also much of the north-east of the country. But Bolsonaro is targeting the 60 million voters in that region, and is aware that he cannot rely on his previous election support to secure victory this time around.

“He’s decided to transfer the battle to the north-east and not simply give Lula the region,” a former administration official recently told the Financial Times.

Right now, Bolsonaro doesn't have the support required to win Brazil’s northern territories. But that could change. Over the coming months he will campaign hard north of Rio de Janeiro – and the promise of greater industry investment is likely to be what he focuses on.

“It’s possible that, as the elections loom, Bolsonaro will intensify his campaign in the north-east but the problem’s the timing,” Leon Victor de Queiroz, a political science professor at Federal University of Pernambuco. “Too late will seem like opportunism, too soon and it won’t have an impact.”