Former left-wing President Lula prevailed in the first round of Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil, but outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro has held up better than expected and a second round will be held to decide between them.
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Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, icon of the Brazilian left, won 47.97% of the vote ahead of the far-right outgoing president’s 43.60%, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) said in the evening based on a 97.69% count of polling stations .
This narrow victory is disappointing for Lula, who the polls promised was a big margin, even a first-round triumph, which he hoped to celebrate on the main Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo.
In a second round, which the electoral law provides for on October 30, he must face his sworn enemy.
President Jair Bolsonaro fared much better than expected as polls showed him trailing Lula (36% vs. 50%) in voting intentions.
For the populist leader, who escaped humiliating defeat in the first round, these four weeks can be an opportunity to mobilize his troops on the streets and find new momentum.
A second round means another month of a toxic campaign that has been wearying millions of Brazilians since August.
The candidates exchanged many personal insults and presented few plans for the future of Brazil, a deeply fragmented country with immense challenges.
“It adds to the insecurity,” Georgetown University’s Michael Shifter told AFP, “it wouldn’t be surprising to see more rioting or violent incidents.”
“Lula will win”
In addition, many Bolsonarist candidates, including former government ministers, were elected to Congress and as governors.
But in the Lulist camp, Viviane Laureano da Silva, a 36-year-old civil servant, remained confident: “The campaign will be difficult, but Lula will win in the second round,” she told AFP in Rio.
Throughout the day, Brazilians had rushed en masse to elect their president, but also the deputies, a third of the senators and the governors of the 27 states with long lines.
The election, to which 156 million voters had been called, was apparently non-violent in the largest country in Latin America.
Two uncertainties weighed on this election day: could Lula be elected president for a third term in the first ballot and would Bolsonaro challenge the result, as he had threatened for months.
“If the elections go smoothly, no problem. May the best win!” said President Bolsonaro, 67, during the morning vote in Rio de Janeiro.
Annoyed by the urgent questions from the press, Bolsonaro, in the yellow and green jersey of the national soccer team, under which he wore a bulletproof vest, did not want to say clearly whether he would recognize the result.
But Brazilians punished the 67-year-old outgoing president less than expected for his Covid denial (685,000 dead), the economic crisis in a country where more than 30 million people are suffering from hunger and the crises that have interrupted his entire mandate .
Left-wing ex-president (2003-2010) Lula, 76, himself is struggling to shake off the image of corruption that has stuck with him since the huge Lavage Express scandal, which saw 18 months in prison before his conviction was overturned or statute-barred .
“The Most Important Choice”
Lula followed the announcement of the results in a large hotel in Sao Paulo and Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia at the presidency.
“For me, this is the most important election,” said the former steel worker, who is voting in Sao Bernardo, a working-class suburb of Sao Paulo.
Lula is contesting his sixth presidential election, 12 years after leaving power, with a stratospheric popularity rating (87%).
In the polling stations, the voters, who were often dressed in Bolsonarist yellow and green or Lulist red, sometimes had to wait several hours before they could cast their votes because of the crowds.
But the President of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), Alexandre de Moraes, assured that the vote went “without any problems” and wanted to “confirm” the reliability and transparency of the electronic ballot box system, which Jair Bolsonaro has criticized many times. .
More than 500,000 members of the security forces were mobilized to provide security for the election, which was held in the presence of dozens of foreign observers.