Supporters of Brazilian left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) presidential candidate and former president (2003-2010), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, show the ‘L’ symbol, heavy for Lula’s presidential campaign, before a rally in Salvador, Bahia state, Brazil is tangible. on September 30, 2022.
Arisson Marinho | AFP | Getty Images
Brazilians vote on Sunday in the first round of their country’s most polarized election in decades, with leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva favored to beat right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
Most polls show Lula has had a solid lead for months, but Bolsonaro signaled he may refuse to accept defeat, raising fears of an institutional crisis or post-election violence.
A message projected onto the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro before the vote read: “Peace in the elections.”
Most opinion polls favor Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, by 10-15 percentage points. If he wins more than 50% of the valid votes, which several pollsters within reach show, that would win a clear victory and forgo a second-round vote.
A winner could be announced within hours of the polls closing at 5 p.m. Brazilian time (2000 GMT).
If no candidate wins more than half of the votes, barring blank and tainted ballots, the top two finishers go to an Oct. 30 runoff, prolonging the tense campaign season.
Bolsonaro has threatened to contest the outcome of the vote after making baseless allegations of fraud, accusing electoral authorities of plotting against him and suggesting the military conduct a parallel count, which they refused.
A crucial Lula win on Sunday could lessen the chances of a tumultuous transition. Critics of Bolsonaro say another month of his attacks on the democratic process could spark social unrest like the 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Bolsonaro says he will respect the election result if the voting is “clean and transparent” without defining any criteria.
Brazilians also vote for all 513 members of the lower chamber of Congress, a third of the 81 members of the Senate and the state governors and legislatures on Sunday.
Although Lula is leading the presidential race, the conservative coalition behind Bolsonaro is expected to retain a majority in both houses of Congress. That could pose challenges for the left to govern a country with rising hunger, high unemployment and an uneven recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lula and Bolsonaro have both promised more generous welfare spending next year, increasing pressure on the federal budget and prompting both to seek alternatives to current spending rules.
The newly created autonomy of Brazil’s central bank and Lula’s choice of a centrist former rival as a running mate have reassured some investors that he would not trigger a disruptive rupture in economic policy.
Lula has vowed to make a sharp departure from Bolsonaro’s environmental policies after deforestation in the Amazon rainforest hit a 15-year high. Lula has pledged to fight logging, step up protection of the biome and local tribes, and make Brazil a protagonist in climate diplomacy.
As in previous elections, the Brazilian military was mobilized to increase security at some 477,000 polling stations, using electronic voting machines that allow the national elections authority (TSE) to quickly compile results.
Following Bolsonaro’s criticism of Brazil’s electoral systems, the TSE invited a record number of foreign election observers, including first-time US observer missions to the Carter Center and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).