Brazil will go to the ballot on October 30 after the surprising performance of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro this Sunday in the first round of the presidential elections against leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who won by a narrow margin.
At the end of an agonizing count that began by giving Bolsonaro an advantage of up to seven points but was later reduced by drops, the results placed former President Lula with 48% of the votes, compared to 43% for the president, with 99 % of polling stations counted.
The main pollsters had predicted a wide advantage for Lula for months and had even foreseen the possibility that the former president would win this Sunday without the need for a ballot.RELATED
However, the far-right president resisted and achieved a result that only his supporters insisted on believing.
“Today we defeated the lie” of the polls, Bolsonaro told reporters outside the presidential palace of Alvorada, in Brasilia, showing himself optimistic for “the second part of the match.”
Bolsonarism was also reinforced in the legislative and gubernatorial elections, held in parallel. In Congress, for example, former Environment Minister Ricardo Salles was elected deputy, who had to leave the government due to suspicions of corruption.
“I would even dare to say that Bolsonarism won the first round,” said Bruna Santos, of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute, a think tank in Washington. “He came out reinforced in Congress and the Senate. Not to mention that he extended his base in the governorships,” she added.
Meanwhile, Lula, who had planned to celebrate his victory in the first round in style in Sao Paulo, will now have to fight for every vote.
“The fight continues until the final victory,” said the 76-year-old former president at the São Paulo hotel where he awaited the results. “It’s just an extension,” he added.
“We will have to travel more” to “convince Brazilian society of our proposals,” he added, visibly tired.
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“Today’s results will force Lula to court centrist and even conservative voters more aggressively in the next four weeks,” Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in Sao Paulo, said in a tweet. Paul.
Bolsonaro, a 67-year-old former army captain, has focused his campaign strategy on moral values such as family and the Bible, patriotic speech and attacks on his adversary, whom he refers to as the “thief.”
He maintains solid support among evangelicals, who represent a third of the electorate, agribusiness and part of the popular sectors that do not forgive Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) for its corruption scandals.
The far-right had attacked the polls at his rallies: he assured that the electoral temperature had to be taken in the streets, and that in that case he would win by far. Two weeks ago he said it would be “abnormal” not to win by 60% in the first round.
“I’m not surprised by the results. Overcoming an entire structure to elect a candidate (Lula) is not easy and having a second round shows the strength” of Bolsonaro, Paulo Ferreira, a 70-year-old retiree from state-owned Petrobras, told AFP.
Bolsonaro’s term was marked by a turbulent management of the pandemic that left 686,000 dead, an increase in poverty and hunger, record levels of deforestation in the Amazon, and attacks against judicial institutions and the press.
The stain of corruption
For his part, Lula counted on imposing himself comfortably this Sunday supported by the vote of the poorest, women and young people, after having governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and having left power with almost 90% popularity.
But Lula has not been able to shake off the stain of corruption in the eyes of a good part of society. He was sentenced and imprisoned before having his convictions overturned in 2021 on procedural grounds for the “Lava Jato” scandal over a bribery ring at state oil company Petrobras.
In downtown Rio, Viviane Laureano da Silva, a 36-year-old civil servant, expressed confidence that Lula “will win in a second round.”
“The campaign is going to be difficult. I am from the periphery and I see how the people support Lula,” he told AFP after the results were known.
If he wins in the second round, Lula promises to fight hunger in Brazil, remove the country from its diplomatic isolation and put an end to its image as an environmental “pariah” due to the deforestation of the Amazon registered under Bolsonaro.
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