Datafolha reinforces Lula’s new obsession: to seduce the Bolsonarist class

One week away from the 100th anniversary of his administration, Lula is paradoxically evaluating the performance of his own administration. He thinks he managed to quickly rescue social programs aimed at the poorest, removing the bulk of the rubble left by Bolsonaro. But he regrets not having released news capable of crystallizing the perception that he was serious when he promised to “govern for all Brazilians”. The results of the most recent Datafolha poll boosted Lula’s desire to add programs aimed at the middle class to the menu of his administration. This is Lula’s new obsession.

In conversation with the column, one of Lula’s ministers said that “the president’s opinion about the government is very similar to the view of Brazilians”, captured by Datafolha. Like the majority (51%), Lula thinks he did less than was expected of him. However, following the example of the expectation expressed by half of the interviewees (50%), he also evaluates that he has time to carry out an excellent or good third term. Hence the motivation to seduce middle-class Brazilians, a segment still steeped in Bolsonarism.

Lula wants to radicalize the slogan echoed by Fernando Haddad when he announced last week his proposal for a new fiscal rule: “Putting the poor in the budget and the rich in the Income Tax”. In the president’s view, the pandemic has deepened the inequality gap in Brazil. The poor got poorer, the rich got richer and the middle class got less and less middle class. It works with the perspective that the plan devised to balance public accounts without inhibiting State investments will make room in the budget to contemplate the middle range of society.

Lula has been outlining his disquiet in public speeches. On February 16, when he announced at a ceremony in Planalto the increase in the value of student grants offered by the Ministry of Education, the president declared: “We are also going to try to serve the middle class. We need to serve the middle class, because in the background is the middle class that is not included in almost any of the government’s public policies. In addition to taking care of the poorest people, we have to take care of the middle class people. Because they are the ones who sustain the economy of this country”.

On March 20, when relaunching the Mais Médicos program, Lula renewed his nod: “When we have completed one hundred days, we will have put back on the shelf all the public policies that we created and that worked in this country. we are going to have to start doing new things. We have to address the Brazilian middle class a little. Because, deep down, deep down, it has suffered a lot in this country”.

By reaching the new goal, Lula would avoid a mistake attributed to Bolsonaro. The predecessor governed, in practice, only for a third of the electorate. He reached the end of his term identified above all with his more radical followers. With the re-election project in the water, he tried to mitigate the weaknesses of his administration with massive doses of electoral populism. He lost to Lula with the narrowest margin of votes in history, just 1.8 percentage points. The poorest voters shielded Lula. They received Bolsonaro’s benefits, but voted for the opponent.

Aside from the social memory evoked by his first two terms, Lula benefited from the democratic factor. The fear of converting Brazil into an autocracy inspired the formation of the broad front that earned Lula conservative votes that he would not have received under normal circumstances. Three months into his third term, the government’s approval rate —38% according to Datafolha— was received with a hint of satisfaction by Lula’s staff. The index is, however, far from the 51% of votes amassed by the president in the 2022 polls. The nods to the middle class seem more inspired by the desire to recover voters than to attract the recalcitrant of Bolsonarism.

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