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Richarlison (L) and Neymar (R) of Brazil celebrate after scoring the first goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 match against Serbia in Doha.

BILDBYRÅN via REUTERS

At the World Cup, Brazil plays both soccer & politics

When five-time winner Brazil takes the stage in its first World Cup knockout-stage match against big surprise South Korea on Monday, most Brazilians will put political divisions aside to unite behind the national soccer team in its quest to win another trophy in Qatar. But not all.

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Brazilian Politics: Surprisingly Stable | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Brazilian politics: surprisingly stable

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. A Quick Take to kick off your week. There's so much that we could talk about, but we just had elections in Brazil, and as expected, Lula will be the next president of the largest economy in South America. We haven't yet heard anything from Jair Bolsonaro. That, of course, is an open question, just how much he wants to be an election denier, how much disruption he wants to bring about. But there's no question that we are going to see that transition.

Now, not a big surprise here. Lula's been polling ahead consistently over the course of the past months, though it was a tighter race, ultimately only a 1.9% split between the two candidates, a couple million votes, which had been tightening over the course of the last few weeks. In part, that's because Bolsonaro did a better job towards the end of electioneering. In part, the economy was getting a little bit better in Brazil. But also, keep in mind, generally speaking, polls underestimate the support you'll get for anti-establishment populace. And one big reason for that is because if you really don't believe in institutions, you are not likely to tell pollsters who you're going to vote for. You know why? Because you don't trust them. Now, the good news is a lot of people that really believe in conspiracy theories don't even bother to vote. But nonetheless, if they are going to vote, they're probably not going to talk to pollsters about it. So you do get a bit of that shy, radical populous turnout that did happen this time around, but not enough to make a difference.

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Brazil's outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro votes during the election runoff in Rio de Janeiro.

Bruna Prado/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Bolsonaro’s next move, China’s forever zero-COVID, Iran’s public trials

What’s Bolsonaro gonna do?

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro will speak publicly on Tuesday for the first time about the presidential election, which he officially lost on Sunday to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by just under two points. Unlike in some other countries — ahem — Brazil’s unified electronic system counts all the votes at once, on the day of the election, and that’s that. But the right-wing Bolsonaro has spent months casting doubt on the credibility of that system itself, repeatedly hinting that he might not accept the result if he loses. Meanwhile, his supporters have cried foul at heavy-handed efforts by courts and electoral authorities to police fake news in the run-up to the vote. Truckers who support him have already blocked roads in 20 of Brazil’s 26 states. Some analysts fear a January 6 insurrection or worse, given Bolsonaro’s cozy ties to the military. Does he really think he can overturn the result? Probably not. Is he crazy enough to try a coup? Doubtful (really). But can he create an awful lot of chaos as a way of bolstering his political capital ahead of his upcoming role as leader of a powerful opposition that now controls congress? Surely. The results are in, but the streets are waiting: your move, Jair.

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A Lula supporter watches the presidential runoff election results in Brasilia.

REUTERS/Diego Vara

What We’re Watching: Lula wins Brazilian nail-biter, Russia kills Ukraine grain deal

Lula wins a tight victory in Brazil

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will return to the top job in Brazil after winning the runoff election against sitting President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday. It was, as expected, a very close contest: with 99% of the ballots in, Lula got 50.83% of the vote compared to Bolsonaro's 49.17%.

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A man walks past Brazilian presidential campaign materials showing candidates Lula and Bolsonaro in Brasilia.

REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Brazil smackdown: Lula vs. Bolsonaro, final round

It’s a presidential election between two bitter rivals, each with tens of millions of supporters who see the other as a threat to democracy itself. Sound familiar? It’s not the 2024 US election just yet. No, it’s this Sunday’s presidential smackdown – er, runoff – in Brazil.

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A supporter of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reacts as people gather after polling stations were closed in the presidential election in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

What We're Watching: Brazilian runoff, Burkina Faso coup 2.0, Ukraine's response to Russian annexations

Lula’s bittersweet first-round win

Left-wing former President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva won the first round of Brazil's presidential election on Sunday but fell short of the outright majority needed to avoid an Oct. 30 runoff that might now be tighter than expected. With almost 97% of the ballots counted, Lula got 47.9% of the vote, 4.2 percentage points more than his nemesis: the far-right incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. Although Lula is still favored to also win in the second round, the result is good news for Bolsonaro because he outperformed the polls, which had him trailing Lula by a wide margin and led many to believe his rival could win it all in the first round. Some experts think that Bolsonaro is consistently underestimated because many Brazilians are hesitant to admit they vote for him — a theory pollsters deny. Lula's narrower-than-expected victory might give Bolsonaro even more fodder to claim that the surveys are rigged against him. Brazil's president has spent months firing up his base with baseless doubts about the integrity of the election process, and no one would be surprised if he tries to pull a 6 de Janeiro if he loses the runoff.

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"Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson - Russia!" A banner on a screen set up ahead of an expected ceremony and concert in Moscow to declare four Ukrainian regions part of Russia.

REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

What We're Watching: Russian annexations, Brazilian election, DeSantis-Biden truce

Bluffs called in Ukraine

On Friday, Vladimir Putin will announce that four regions of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson – have become part of Russia following referenda in those places that virtually no one outside Russia considers legitimate. Russian officials, including Putin himself, have said that Russia will defend its territory by any means necessary, including with nuclear weapons. This warning will have no impact on Ukrainian forces, who appear close to retaking the strategically important city of Lyman in Donetsk as part of its remarkably successful counter-offensive. Nor will it weaken support for Ukraine from America and Europe. So, what happens when Ukrainian soldiers score more victories on land that Putin claims is part of Russia? We’re about to find out.

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Presidential campaign materials displayed in Rio de Janeiro.

REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Brazil: “Whoever gets the most votes will win, period.”

Brazil is now just two months away from its most pivotal, polarizing and potentially destabilizing presidential election in decades.

The country’s current far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is likely to face off against his nemesis, the leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro, who trails badly in the polls, has spent months raising baseless doubts about the integrity of Brazil’s centralized electronic voting system. Ominously, some members of the military have echoed those concerns, raising the prospect either of January 6 style violence after the vote, or a move by the military to interfere with the transfer of power. After all, just days ago, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Brasilia to ensure that the military is fully under control ahead of the Oct. 2 vote.

To better understand what’s at stake and why things feel so on edge in Brazil right now, we sat down with Silvio Cascione, a director in Eurasia Group’s Brazil practice. The interview has been lightly edited for concision and clarity.

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