Brazil returned former President Luis Lula Inacio Da Silva to power by a slim margin. Photo by Matheus Câmara da Silva on Unsplash

Every vote truly counted in the recent Brazilian election, in which the leftist former president known as Lula narrowly edged out controversial conservative Jair Bolsonaro, the first incumbent leader to fail to win re-election in the country’s democratic history. 

A tumultuous 12 years after his second term ended, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva returned from the political wilderness to lead his Workers’ Party to victory, taking 50.9 percent of vote to Mr. Bolsonaro’s 49.1 in an Oct. 30 runoff. 

Most Brazilians in the Southeast U.S., however, clearly did not want to see Lula return to power. 

About a third of 12,591 overseas Brazilians registered to vote through the Consulate General of Brazil in Atlanta turned out to cast ballots at the Latin American Association, which hosted the polls. 

In the first round, 66.6 percent (2,879 people) voted for Mr. Bolsonaro, while just 22.52 percent (973 voters) checked Lula’s name.

In the late-October runoff, Brazilians across Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi showed an even stronger preference for Mr. Bolsonaro, a populist former army captain who has embraced comparisons to (and the unwavering support of) former U.S. President Donald Trump.

During the Oct. 30 vote, which removed all third-party candidates, Mr. Bolsonaro netted 74.08 percent of the vote in the Southeast U.S., or 3,373 votes, while Lula picked up just a few more to land at 1,180 (25.92 percent), according to figures the consulate made available to Global Atlanta. 

What this says about the diverse Brazilian expatriate electorate around Atlanta is unclear, but local voters have spurned Lula’s Workers’ Party before over economic issues — and that was before the party was tainted in a massive corruption scandal around the awarding of contracts to the state-owned oil company, Petrobras. The ensuing Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation engulfed Brazilian politics for years and led to the the removal of Lula’s handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff. 

Mr. Da Silva himself was jailed in 2018 on corruption charges, though a court vacated his conviction, clearing the way for Lula to run against Mr. Bolsonaro, who positioned himself as tough on crime, friendly to business and an ally of Brazil’s growing evangelical Christian right. 

Mr. Bolsonaro cut regulation, welcomed foreign investment and reformed the Brazilian pension system, moves that endeared him to companies weary of government corruption and red tape. But he also challenged democratic norms, embraced incendiary rhetoric and downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic, which went on to kill nearly 700,000 people in the country of 215 million. 

The commercial ramifications of the election for Georgia may not become clear for years, but it could accelerate a recent parade of Brazilian investments into the South, where manufacturers and agribusiness firms have found a hospitable beachhead into the U.S. market. Atlanta firms like Coca-Cola Co., NCR and Novelis have significant Brazilian operations, while Brazilian manufacturers like WEG, Embraco Guidoni Group, Taurus and others have picked Georgia over the years. The Georgia Department of Economic Development maintains an office in São Paulo and regularly posts trade inquiries there from Brazilian firms search for Georgia products and services. 

But this differed dramatically from Chicago, where Mr. Da Silva won a clear majority with 55 percent, and Los Angeles, where it was pretty much an even split with Mr. Bolsonaro carrying a slight edge. Search more election results here.

FINAL RESULT (Nationwide in Brazil):

LULA ((Workers’ Party, or PT): 60.345.999 votes – 50,90%

JAIR BOLSONARO (Liberal Party, or PL):  58.206.354 – 49,10%

Total of valid votes:  118.552.353 – 95,41%

Blanc votes (not valid): 1.769.678

Null votes (not valid): 3.930.765

First Round Results in Atlanta:

Total number of voters registered in the Consulate in Atlanta: 12.591 

LULA (PT):  973 votes – 22,52%

JAIR BOLSONARO (PL):  2.879 – 66,64%

Total of valid votes: 4.320

Blanc votes (not valid): 33

Null votes (not valid): 34;e=544;cargo=1;uf=zz;mu=39080

Second Round (Runoff) Results in Atlanta:

LULA (PT):  1,180 votes – 25.92%

JAIR BOLSONARO (PL):  3,373 – 74.08%

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...