Brazilian businessmen continue to support President Jair Bolsonaro on the eve of the October elections, although his management has generated reservations, while the sector is suspicious of a return of the leftist Lula da Silva.
In search of re-election, the far-right president concentrates 62% of the businessmen’s voting intentions, far from the 24% of his rival, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, according to a survey by the Datafolha Institute released on Thursday.
This preference contradicts that of the electorate in general, where Lula gathers 47%, with an advantage of 14 percentage points, according to the survey.
Businessmen especially value the advance in the neoliberal agenda of the Bolsonaro government, who promised in 2018 to shrink the State, analysts point out.
Led by the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, this policy is reflected in privatizations such as that of the electricity company Eletrobras, and numerous concessions, such as the one granted in sanitation to the company Aguas do Rio.
Entrepreneurs also appreciated the reform of the pension system and the promotion of a tax reform, pending in Congress.
“I prefer a liberal agenda, because private initiative is what creates jobs and drives the economy,” says Joao Cox, a member of the board of directors of several companies, such as Embraer, without revealing his vote.
Small businessmen value for their part that Bolsonaro opposed the closures due to covid, which killed more than 685,000 people in Brazil, according to Daniela Campello, a political science specialist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
The post-pandemic economic rebound also works in favor of the president in this sector.
The largest Latin American economy grew 4.6% in 2021 after falling in 2020 and the market projects an expansion of 2.65% this year.
The business community also views the alternative to Bolsonaro with suspicion: 70% reject former President Lula (2003-2010), according to Datafolha.
The concerns allude to “greater economic interventionism and its commitment to workers”, even with promises to review the reform that made some labor rights more flexible in 2017, Campello analyzes.
By sectors, agribusiness continues to be the great Bolsonarist bastion. On the Independence Day celebrations, on September 7, a column of tractors participated in the traditional military parade in Brasilia.
In fact, the main private donor of the Bolsonaro campaign (one million reais, USD 195,000) is the grain producer Oscar Cervi.
The sector, which contributes almost 28% of GDP, highlights advances in logistics infrastructure and good performance despite the pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine, says Luiz Carlos Correa Carvalho, president of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association.
And Bolsonaro’s position against indigenous claims in the legal dispute over agricultural land, in the hands of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), is key.
Lula “made it clear that he supports the invasion of land and even called agriculture ‘right-wing and fascist,’ which is why the producer considers it a threat,” says Correa Carvalho.
Another fear in agriculture is that Lula decides to impose “taxes on exports”, following the model of the Argentine government, adds an anonymous consultant.
The group of faithful to the president also includes a handful of businessmen -with millionaire Luciano Hang at the head-, investigated by the STF after talks in favor of a coup in case of electoral defeat.
But there are also detractors. For example, Luis Stuhlberger, a successful businessman, who assured that “never again” will he vote for the “psychopath” Bolsonaro.
“Business support is more divided” now than it was in 2018, explains Christopher Garman, executive director for the Americas at Eurasia Group.
Large business associations, including those from the automotive, chemical and foreign trade industries, declared themselves “non-partisan” to AFP, after publicly supporting Bolsonaro in the past.
There were also atypical gestures, such as the dissemination of a manifesto in defense of democracy in response to Bolsonaro’s attacks on the electoral system by the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo (Fiesp) and signed by the Federation of Brazilian Banks (Febraban). .
According to Garman, Bolsonaro also lost “credibility due to his fiscal management (increasing spending) and a terrible international reputation for environmental issues.”
That, says the analyst, ended up inclining some leaders of multinationals and foreign investors towards Lula.