Brazil votes in tense election: Bolsonaro vs. Lula | Election News

Deeply divided Brazil will hold a decisive vote in four weeks after far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro achieved stronger-than-expected results in Sunday’s presidential poll.

With 99.8% of the voting machines counted, leftist challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva obtained 48.4% of the valid votes, against 43.3% for Bolsonaro, according to the Superior Electoral Tribunal.

The second-round vote, extending what has been a tense and violent campaign for another four weeks, will take place on October 30.

On Sunday, there were long queues at polling stations which closed at 5 p.m. local time (2000 GMT).

About 156 million people were eligible to vote.

Da Silva, popularly known as Lula, came out on top on election day, with recent opinion polls giving him a decisive lead and even a first-round victory. The strength of Bolsonaro’s support and the much tighter result dashed expectations of a quick resolution to the deep polarization in the world’s fourth-largest democracy.

“He’s clearly outperformed, and that’s a big surprise,” Americas Council vice president Eric Farnsworth told Al Jazeera. “Polls have been proven incorrect in Brazil.”

Presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva votes at a polling station in Sao Bernardo do Campo, on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil [Mariana Greif/Reuters]

Bolsonaro had questioned polls that showed him losing to Lula in the first round, saying they failed to capture the enthusiasm he saw during the election campaign. The 67-year-old former army captain hailed the result as a victory.

“We beat the lie today,” he told reporters, referring to pre-vote polls.

“Now the campaign is ours… I am completely confident. We have a lot of positive achievements to show.

In races for the lower house, senate and governorships, Brazil’s far-right has also performed strongly.

In the key race for governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state and industrial capital, former Bolsonaro infrastructure minister Tarcisio de Freitas smashed forecasts by 42.6% votes against 35.5% for Lula’s ally, Fernando Haddad, whom he will face in a second round. .

“The far right is very strong throughout Brazil,” said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at Insper business school in Sao Paulo. “Lula’s victory in the second round is now less likely. Bolsonaro will arrive with great force to be re-elected. »

Bolsonaro reinvigorated

In Brasilia, Ricardo Almeida, 45, voted wearing the yellow and green colors of the Brazilian flag. “I voted for [Bolsonaro] because of his Christian faith, his defense of family values ​​and his conservative politics,” he said.

Outside Bolsonaro’s family home in Rio de Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, the scene of jubilant celebrations when Bolsonaro was first elected in 2018, the mood was increasingly optimistic.

Maria Lourdes de Noronha, 63, said only fraud could prevent a victory for Bolsonaro, adding that “we won’t accept it” if he loses. “The polls in our country, the media and the journalists, are liars, rascals, shameless,” she said.

Like many of its Latin American neighbors struggling with high inflation and large numbers of people excluded from formal employment, Brazil is considering a political shift to the left.

Presidents Gustavo Petro of Colombia, Gabriel Boric of Chile and Pedro Castillo of Peru are among the region’s left-wing leaders who have recently taken power.

Lula, who is looking to return after leading Brazil from 2003 to 2010, said he ran for president “to bring the country back to normal” after four years under Bolsonaro.

Addressing a crowd of around 2,000 after the results were announced, he sounded an optimistic note.

“Throughout this campaign I always thought we would win and we would win,” the 76-year-old said.

“It’s just a break. Things are not going well and we have to get this country back on the world stage.

Adorned with Lula stickers, Adriana Schneider voted in a primary school in Rio de Janeiro. The 48-year-old university professor said Bolsonaro’s administration had been “catastrophic” for investment in culture, arts, science and education.

“We live under a barbaric government,” she said.

Lula rose from poverty to the presidency and is credited with establishing an extensive social welfare program during his tenure from 2003 to 2010 that helped lift tens of millions of people out of poverty.

But he is also remembered for his administration’s involvement in sweeping corruption scandals that have entangled politicians and business leaders.

Lula’s convictions for corruption and money laundering led to 19 months in prison, which meant he could not run in the 2018 presidential race that polls indicated he was leading against Bolsonaro.

The Supreme Court later overturned Lula’s convictions on the grounds that the judge was biased and colluded with prosecutors.

Voting in São Bernardo do Campo on Sunday, Lula acknowledged the dramatic turnaround in his fortunes after a conviction he said was politically motivated.

“It’s an important day for me,” he said. “Four years ago I couldn’t vote because I was the victim of a lie…I want to try to help my country get back to normal.”

People line up to vote outside a polling station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
People line up to vote outside a polling station in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday [Lucas Landau/Reuters]

Bolsonaro grew up in a family of modest means before joining the army. He eventually turned to politics after being forced out of the military for openly pushing to raise soldiers’ salaries.

During his seven terms as a fringe legislator in the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress, he regularly expressed nostalgia for the country’s two decades of military dictatorship.

Promising to stand up for “God, country and family”, the president retains unwavering support from his base – evangelical Christians, security advocates and the powerful agribusiness sector.

However, the 67-year-old has lost moderate voters with his handling of the weak economy, his vitriolic attacks on Congress, the courts and the press, a wave of destruction in the Amazon rainforest and his failure to contain the devastation of COVID -19, which has killed more than 685,000 people in Brazil.

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