BRAZIL, Brazil – Former left-wing president of Brazil Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula, narrowly won the hotly contested presidential election tonight by a margin of just under 2%.
With 50% of the districts reported, Bolsonaro held on to a 0.5% lead, but the general trend over the course of the evening was a slow and steady recovery for Lula, as the votes came from the north. -East. Just before 7pm, with 72% of the districts reported, Lula took her first lead of the night and continued to expand her lead.
It would have been difficult for Bolsonaro in the second round as well, as Lula won the first round by 5 points, from 48% to 43%, almost winning outright on 2 October. Bolsonaro also faced a uhpill battle in the sense that both thirds placed Simone Tebet and fourth-placed Ciro Gomes supported Lula in the second round.
Bolsonaro proved strong in the country’s richer south, conquering São Paulo and his native Rio de Janeiro by margins of more than 10%, but that wasn’t enough to offset Lula’s massive turnout in northeastern Brazil, where the workers The party has long enjoyed domination. In fact, Lula has won numerous states with margins of 30%, 40% or even 50%, performing particularly strong in the vote-rich states of Bahia, Ceará and his native Pernambuco.
Bolsonaro overturned the fundamental swing state of Minas Gerais, winning by a narrow margin and backed by the approval of Governor Romeu Zema, but it was not enough to reach 50%.
However, it wasn’t all bad news for the Bolsonaro camp. In the country’s second most important race for the Sao Paulo government, Bolsonaro-backed candidate Tarcisio de Freitas easily defeated Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad, who was the 2018 presidential candidate who lost to Bolsonaro.
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The candidates aligned with Bolsonaro will now control the three largest states in Brazil: Romeu Zema in Minas Gerais, Claudio Castro in Rio de Janeiro and Tarcisio de Freitas in São Paulo. Even if it did not win, the Bolsonaro movement remains strong and Brazil’s 156 million voters will remain deeply divided culturally and politically.
After voting in his native Sao Bernardo do Campo in the south of Sao Paulo state, Lula headed to downtown Sao Paulo to hold a press conference and walk down the famous Paulista Avenue, often considered the “main street” of Brazil. Lula proclaimed: “Today could be the most important day of my life … the Brazilian people are defining the model they want to have … the lifestyle they want.”
Bolsonaro voted in Vila Militar in his home state of Rio de Janeiro, saying he had “the expectation of victory, for the sake of Brazil … if it is God’s will, we will be victorious tonight”.
Critics accused Bolsonaro would not accept the election results in case of defeat, but on Friday he sang a different tune: “Whoever has the most votes gets it. This is democracy.”
In Vila Planalto, Brasilia, a largely pro-Bolsonaro middle-class neighborhood near the Palacio da Alvorada, where Bolsonaro is known for walking, groups of family and friends had gathered to see the election results, with the majority attending sported the yellow jerseys of Brazil. They fed the disappointing news over large bottles of Brazilian beer, served in typical style in tiny glasses.
One voter said: “In my family we are divided. My daughter called me to say I should vote for Lula, but I said we have a secret ballot in Brazil.”
Across town, at the iconic TV tower, Lula’s supporters, many dressed in red, crammed into a plaza to applaud the results.
Most polls had shown Lula with a slight lead, but there seemed to be a tightening in the final week of the campaign. Furthermore, polls during the October 2 first-round election turned out to be biased in Lula’s favor, while significantly underestimating support for Bolsonaro.
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Lula is likely to face a difficult mandate, with considerable Congressional opposition from the large Bolsonaro-aligned bloc of federal deputies and senators.
His election tonight represents one of the greatest throwback stories in Latin American history. Lula was convicted and jailed on bribery and money laundering charges which were later overturned for technical reasons by the Supreme Court of Brazil, paving the way for him to run for an unprecedented third term.
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Lula is also believed to have made a shrewd move in selecting former centrist São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, pro-business, as his running mate for the vice presidency. In 2018, Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad selected Rio Grande do Sul Federal MP Manuela D’Avila, from the Brazilian Communist Party, who was widely considered too extreme.
Haddad ended up losing 10% in the 2018 election against Bolsonaro.