Brazilian Senate leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was re-elected on Wednesday after defeating a challenge from a competitor backed by far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro.
Rodrigo Pacheco retained his position as head of the upper house of Congress after defeating Rogerio Marinho of Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party (PL) by a vote of 49 to 32, a victory for seasoned leftist Lula.
Pacheco is a member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), a moderate party that, as a result of a flurry of last-minute agreements, managed to surpass the People’s Liberation Party (PL) as the largest party in the new Senate.
He vowed the Senate would have “appropriate independence” from the executive branch.
However, the Congress that was chosen in the elections of October that put Lula in office is still primarily controlled by conservatives, with the PL being the most numerous party in the lower chamber.
That might make it challenging for Lula, a 77-year-old former metalworker who was elected president three times and narrowly defeated Bolsonaro on October 30.
Less than a month after protesters broke into Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace, alleging Lula’s victory was fraudulent, members of the 81-seat Senate and the 513-seat Chamber of Deputies took the oath of office on Wednesday.
The lower house leadership vote was won by a record 464 ballots by incumbent speaker Arthur Lira, a key figure in a loose coalition of parties dubbed the “Centrao” that is known for its knack for securing government pork and prized posts.