The Week Ahead in Brazil #122

What is happening in Brazil?

1. Politics – President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) travelled to London for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. At the official residence of the Brazilian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Fred Arruda, Bolsonaro made a statement to supporters. He attended the wake accompanied by first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, pastor Silas Malafaia and ambassador Fred Arruda.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s (PL) speech at the opening of the UN Assembly on Tuesday (20) presented figures and achievements of the government, such as advances in issues related to the environment, the economy and humanitarian aid. He also defended the end of the war in Ukraine, asked for the reform of the Security Council, attacked the PT management, and said he ended the corruption in the country. (g1)

On Monday (19), candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) met with eight politicians who have been presidential candidates in other elections, including former Finance Minister and former Secretary of Finance of the State of São Paulo Henrique Meirelles (União Brasil). All of them have declared their support for Lula’s campaign. On Thursday (21), former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB) posted a message asking for votes for “those who are committed to fighting poverty and inequality”. (Poder360)

A businessman filed charges related to the management of former Education Minister Milton Ribeiro. The case is related to the episode with the existence of a “parallel cabinet” that caused Ribeiro’s downfall. (Estadão)

The FSB/BTG survey shows Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) leading the voting intentions in the first round with 44% (+3pp), followed by Jair Bolsonaro (PL) with 35% (stable). The disapproval rate is 55% (-1pp) and the approval rate is 38% (stable). The poll was conducted by telephone with 2,000 voters from 16 to 18 September.

The AtlasIntel/Arko poll shows Lula (PT) with 48% (+1pp) and Bolsonaro (PL) with 39% (+1pp). The disapproval rate was 56%, and the approval rate was 40%. The survey was conducted with 7,514 respondents, by digital means, between September 16 and 20.

The Ipec/Globo poll points out that Lula (PT) has 47% (+1pp) of voting intentions in the first round against Bolsonaro (PL), who has 31% (stable). The government is disapproved by 59% (regular) and approved by 36% (+1pp). The poll was conducted face-to-face with 3,008 voters between September 17 and 18.

The Quaest/Genial poll shows Lula (PT) with 44% (+2pp) and Bolsonaro (PL) with 34% (stable). The disapproval rate stood at 39% (+1pp) and the approval rate at 31% (-1pp). The poll interviewed 2,000 voters in person from 17 to 20 September.

According to the PoderData survey, Lula (PT) has 44% (+1pp) and Bolsonaro 37% (stable). The disapproval rate is 53% (-1pp), and the approval rate, is 41% (+2pp). The poll interviewed 3,500 voters by telephone between 18 and 20 September.

Datafolha indicates Lula (PT) with 47% (+2pp) and Bolsonaro with 33% (stable). The government’s disapproval rating is 44%, and its approval rating is 32%. The survey heard 6,754 people, in person, between September 20 and 22.

Ipespe shows Lula (PT) with 47% (+3pp) and Bolsonaro with 35% (stable). The disapproval rate is 56%, and the approval is 39%. The poll interviewed 2,000 voters by telephone between 19 and 21 September.

Considering only the most recent week, the average of the polls shows Lula with 45.6%, Bolsonaro with 34.8%, Ciro with 6.8%, and Simone Tebet with 4.7%. Thus, while the average for the month shows a 10-point difference, the week shows 10.8 pp.

Here is a compilation of the surveys and the averages:

2. Economy – Petrobras announced the third reduction in the price of diesel at the refineries, from R$5.19 to R$4.89 per litre. The reduction corresponds to 5.78%. The company also reduced again the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The value per kilo will go from R$ 4.03 to R$ 3.78, a 6% drop. (Valor)

The median of the market projections for the Brazilian economy growth in 2022 went up again from 2.39% to 2.65%. The data are from Focus Report, from Central Bank (BC). (Valor)

The Monetary Policy Committee (Copom) maintained the Brazilian basic interest rate (Selic) unchanged for the first time after 12 meetings. The Selic remained at 13.75% per year, as expected by the financial market. (Estadão)

3. Public Administration – The government announced on Thursday the blockage of R$ 2.63 billion in this year’s budget. The goal is to adapt the budget to the spending cap. (g1)

An analysis:

1. The trend in politics is neutral. A few days before the elections, political actors signal that there may be a change in the correlation of political forces, creating additional unpredictability to the scenario. Lula seems to have improved his performance, and Bolsonaro continues without signs of growth.

Lula has shown a reaction to the problems he faced in the debate on 28 August. On the one hand, he has avoided controversial statements. The former President has conducted a radio and TV campaign, dividing his time between attacking Bolsonaro’s administration and proposing better living conditions for the population. On the other, in addition to the broad coalition of nine parties he brought, Lula obtained significant extra support, such as that of Marina and FHC. This public display of engagement is critical because these political actors are well known and have substantial support from voters and social segments.

Despite the excellent moment in the economy, Bolsonaro seems to have slipped in the last week. Unlike what was expected by campaign members, Bolsonaro’s trip abroad did not generate political dividends that the polls could verify. If the speech at the UN was more diplomatic and protocol, in England, the case was the opposite. Media outlets in the UK and Brazil criticised Bolsonaro for taking pastor Silas Malafaia to the funeral since Brazil is a secular country, and Malafaia does not hold any official position in the government. The statement that if he is not elected in the first round, “something strange” would be happening at the TSE also generated noise, returning the wear and tear in relation to the electronic ballot boxes.

In addition to these factors, let’s consider two other sources to complete the analysis: the behaviour of politicians and electoral polls. Politicians have an extraordinary capacity to perceive the slightest variations in power. Not only do they have internal surveys indicating electoral preferences and trends, but also information from other political actors. Observing the signals from these politicians can be a prelude to the electoral results: those who are on the rise receive support and prestige; those who are on the decline are gradually put after other priorities. In recent weeks, important politicians have been building a slight distance from Bolsonaro. Especially those who do not depend on Bolsonaro for their election. The opposite movement occurs in relation to Lula: an effort to support him and better position themselves in an eventual PT government.

The second element is made up of the electoral polls. This week Lula rose between 1 and 3 percentage points, in all major polls, while Bolsonaro remained stable or lost 1 point. This may reflect a voter’s choice to enable what is named “the useful vote”. The polls are much criticised by Bolsonaro’s followers, reinforced by popular demonstrations of support for the President and the narrative that the polls are wrong or manipulated. The second point deserves a brief comment.

Datafolha is considered by political analysts to be the most reliable electoral research organisation in Brazil. Other very qualified ones have also emerged in these last four years, but let’s look at the complete survey that Datafolha recorded in the 2018 first-round election:

1. From August onwards, Bolsonaro was always ahead for the first round. Datafolha recorded 40% of valid votes on the eve of the election, and Bolsonaro went to the second round with 46%. A difference of 6 percentage points between the poll and the result.

2. Haddad had 25% of the estimated valid votes and was elected to the second round with 29%. Therefore, four percentage point difference.

3. For the second round, Datafolha recorded that, throughout October 2018, Bolsonaro was also always ahead of Haddad.

4. On the eve of the election, according to Datafolha, Bolsonaro had 55% of the valid votes and was elected with 55.13% of the votes.

5. In the same period, Haddad had 45% of the valid votes and was elected with 44.87%.

Here is a link to the 2018 second-round survey.

That is, for the first round, even considering the error of 6pp (Bolsonaro) and 4pp (Haddad), Datafolha consistently indicated the candidates that would go to the second round. Moreover, if it were only Datafolha showing today that Lula was in the lead for the first round, the information would already have good credibility. But not only does Datafolha indicate this situation, but there is also a great convergence of numbers with the other good research institutes.

It will be crucial to observe the events of next week, especially the performance of the candidates in the debate scheduled for Saturday (24) and how the electoral polls will register the voter’s preference. For now, there is significant consistency among the factors analysed. They indicate that Lula is in better condition in the electoral dispute.

2. The economy continues on a positive trend. Market projections for the economy have improved. The government continues to reduce fuel prices, with impacts on inflation and the cost of living. In monetary policy, the maintenance of the Selic rate was the option of the market and financial sector analysts. The announcement will be known on September 27.

3. The public administration follows a neutral trend without significant changes.

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