Lula or Bolsonaro?Brazilians vote in tense presidential election


© Reuters. Former Brazilian President and current presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 1, 2022. REUTERS/Carla Carniel


By Rodrigo Beam Gaier and Gram Slattery

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilians cast their first round of voting on Sunday in the country’s most polarized election in decades, with leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expected to defeat Right-wing incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro.

Most polls put Lula in the lead for months, but Bolsonaro suggested he might refuse to accept defeat, raising fears of an institutional crisis or post-election violence. The message projected on the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro before the vote was: “Peace in the elections”.

Most surveys back Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, by 10-15 percentage points. If he wins more than 50 percent of the valid votes, several polls put him within reach, he will have an outright victory, winning before the second round of voting.

Rio de Janeiro resident Anna Luisa, 70, wearing a “Get Out Bozo” shirt, said it was her first time voting for Lula.

“I have to overthrow Bolsonaro,” she said, citing his “homophobia” and his stance on Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, which Bolsonaro has long supported rule.

The fan-favorite Lula is also hated by many Brazilians for his corruption charges. Bolsonaro often refers to him as a “prisoner”. The leftist was jailed in the last election to serve a conviction later overturned by the Supreme Court, allowing him to face his rival Bolsonaro this year.

Lula voted in San Bernardo do Campo, acknowledging a dramatic turn in his fortunes, as he firmly believes it was politically motivated.

“This is a big day for me,” he said. “Four years ago, I couldn’t vote because I was a victim of lies…I want to work hard to help my country get back to normal.”

Bolsonaro voted in Rio and said he expected to win the first round of elections on Sunday, despite his poor performance in the polls. The former Army captain distrusted the pollsters, saying their results did not match his campaign’s support.

“If we had a clean election, we would have won at least 60 percent of the vote today,” Bolsonaro said in a social media video. “All the evidence we have is in our favor.”

Winners may be announced within hours after polling stations close at 5 p.m. Brasilia time (GMT 2000). If no candidate wins more than half of the votes, excluding blank and damaged ballots, the top two will advance to the Oct. 30 runoff.

Bolsonaro has threatened to question the results of the vote after he made baseless fraud allegations, accused electoral authorities of conspiring against him and suggested the military conduct a parallel vote count, which they refused to do.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, the current president of the federal electoral court, said he expected peaceful days with a “calm” outcome. Moraes, who has been one of Bolsonaro’s main enemies in the investigation into him and his allies, tweeted that the electoral court “continues to work so that we all have a peaceful and calm Sunday” .


A decisive victory for Lula could reduce the likelihood of a turbulent transition. Bolsonaro’s critics say another month of his attacks on the democratic process could spark social unrest, just as supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol in 2021.

On Sunday, Brazilians will also vote for all 513 members of the lower house of Congress, a third of the 81 members of the Senate, governors and the legislature.

Bolsonaro’s conservative coalition is expected to hold a majority in both houses of Congress despite Lula’s lead in the presidential race. 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.

Both Lula and Bolsonaro have pledged more generous welfare spending next year, adding to the pressure on the federal budget.

The newly established autonomy of Brazil’s central bank and Lula’s selection of a centrist former rival as his running mate have reassured some investors that he will not trigger a damaging disruption to economic policy.

Lula has vowed to deviate from Bolsonaro’s environmental policies after deforestation in the Amazon (NASDAQ: ) rainforest hit a 15-year high. Lula has pledged to fight logging, strengthen protections for biomes and local tribes, and make Brazil a protagonist in climate diplomacy.

As in past elections, the Brazilian military has mobilized to strengthen security at some 477,000 polling stations, using electronic voting machines so that the national electoral authority (TSE) can quickly aggregate results.

Following Bolsonaro’s criticism of Brazil’s voting system, the TSE has invited a record number of foreign election observers, including the first visit of U.S. observers at the Carter Center and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

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