Brazil’s presidential election is entering the second round
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Brazil’s polarizing presidential race will enter a second run-off after no candidate secured more than 50% of the vote in an election that saw long lines outside polling booths as millions turned out to vote.
With more than 99% of the votes counted Sunday night, results released by the Brazilian Electoral Tribunal (TSE) showed left-wing candidate and former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva had a slight lead over right-wing incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro — but not enough to cross the threshold to victory.
The most recent official count led Lula with 48.4% of the vote versus 43.2% for Bolsonaro, a controversial number often referred to as the “trump card of the tropics”.
Bolsonaro’s result was eight points higher than the latest Datafolha poll on Saturday, while Lula’s was two to three points lower than polls had predicted.
Lula told reporters Sunday night in Sao Paulo that he was confident of winning the Oct. 30 runoff.
“It will be important (to have a second round) because we will have the opportunity to have a face-to-face debate with the current president to know if he will continue to tell lies,” said Lula, the Brazilian leader of Brazil 2002 to 2010.
In a brief press conference on Sunday, Bolsonaro said the vote reflected the poor economic condition of poorer Brazilians and vowed to appeal to voters worried about rising prices.
“We have a second round ahead of us where everything will be equal, the (television commercial) time will be equal for both sides. And now we’re going to better show the Brazilian people, especially the hardest-hit class, the consequence of the “Stay at home, we’ll look at the economy later” policy, Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro, who has routinely discredited Brazil’s electoral system and threatened not to accept its results, has managed to beat Lula in the southeastern states, the country’s most populous.
More than 123 million Brazilians waited in long lines to vote in the world’s fourth-largest democracy while another 32 million abstained. According to TSE President Alexandre de Moraes, the extensive queues were caused by new biometric security checks and a higher than expected turnout.
Several other presidential candidates were in the running but fell well short of the top two.
Simone Tebet of the Brazilian Democratic Movement came third with 4.1% of the valid vote, and Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Workers’ Party received 3.05% of the vote.
Gomes said in a news conference on Sunday that he was “deeply concerned” about Brazil’s political polarization. “I have never seen a situation so complex, so challenging, so potentially threatening to our destiny as a nation,” he said.
After voting alongside his wife Rosangela da Silva at a school in Sao Paulo on Sunday, Lula told reporters: “We don’t want more discord, we want a country that lives in peace. This is the most important choice. I am very happy.”
He also pointed to the 2018 election in which he was unable to run – or vote – because of a corruption conviction overturned last year.
“Four years ago I couldn’t vote because I was the victim of a lie in this country. And four years later, here I am, voting with the acknowledgment of my complete freedom and the opportunity to be President of the Republic of this country again, to try and let this country go back to normal,” Lula said.
With nearly a dozen candidates on the ballot, the race was dominated from the start by Lula and Bolsonaro, two titans of Brazilian politics who engaged in a bloody campaign season marked by bitter verbal attacks and a series of violent incidents between rival supporters was.
Bolsonaro, 67, was running for re-election under the conservative Liberal Party. He has campaigned to increase mining, privatize public companies and produce more sustainable energy to bring down energy prices. He has vowed to continue paying a R$600 (about $110) monthly benefit known as Axilio Brasil.
His government is known for supporting the ruthless exploitation of Amazonian land, which has led to record levels of deforestation. Conservationists warn that the future of the rainforest could be at stake in this election.
Bolsonaro has also been widely criticized for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 686,000 people in Brazil have died from the virus.
Lula, 76, focused his campaign on getting Bolsonaro out of office and highlighted his past accomplishments throughout his campaign.
He left office with a 90% approval rating in 2011 and is largely credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of extreme poverty through the Bolsa Familia welfare program.
His campaign promised a new tax system that would allow for higher public spending. He has vowed to end hunger in the country, which has returned during the Bolsonaro administration. Lula also promises to work to reduce carbon emissions and deforestation in the Amazon.
However, Lula is also no stranger to controversy. He was convicted of corruption and money laundering in 2017, charged with the wide-ranging “Operation Car Wash” investigation into state-owned oil company Petrobras. But after serving less than two years, a Supreme Court judge reversed Lula’s conviction in March 2021, clearing the way for him to run for president for a sixth time.
Bolsonaro, who has been accused of cheering on supporters with violent rhetoric, has tried to cast doubt on the result, saying that unless he wins “at least 60%” the results should be considered suspicious.
On Saturday, he reiterated claims that he expected to win the first round of the presidential election “by a margin of more than 60%,” despite trailing 14 points in the most recent poll that day.
Both Bolsonaro and his Liberal Party have claimed that Brazil’s e-voting system is vulnerable to fraud — a completely unfounded claim that has drawn comparisons to former US President Donald Trump’s false election claims.
There have been no proven cases of electronic voting fraud in Brazil.
The Supreme Electoral Court has also dismissed claims of flaws in the system as “false and untrue, with no basis in reality”.