Brazil elections clash between returnee Lula and outgoing Bolsonaro

Brazil elections: clash between returnee Lula and outgoing Bolsonaro

Brazil’s 156 million voters began voting on Sunday for a tense presidential election that could see left-wing former President Lula elected in the first round and far-right outgoing leader Jair Bolsonaro set to withhold the verdict at the election.

• Also read: Brazil: Lula remains well ahead of Bolsonaro in a poll three days before the presidential election

“Suspense to the end” painted the front page of the major daily O Globo, which also “underlined the instability that characterized the entire election campaign”.

Edmilson Dias da Silva, a 72-year-old pensioner, has already voted for Bolsonaro for his “good government” among the first voters to start voting on site at 8:00 a.m. But he carefully adds: “We will wait until the referee signals the end of the game”.

In this crucial election for the future of the young democracy in Brazil, the duel at the top between Jair Bolsonaro, 67, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 76, relegated the other nine candidates to the rank of extras.

Brazil elections: clash between returnee Lula and outgoing Bolsonaro

Ex-President Lula (2003-2010) was still the big favorite for Bolsonaro in the last Datafolha poll on Saturday evening with 50% versus 36%.

“The question is whether or not there will be a second round and it’s impossible to predict,” Adriano Laureno, an analyst at Prospectiva Consultants, told AFP.

The other question was whether Bolsonaro would respect the election verdict.

A win for Lula, who shaped Brazilian political life for half a century and is fighting for his sixth presidential election, would mark an unexpected return four years after his controversial jail time on corruption charges.

The final presidential debate on Thursday highlighted the extent of the hatred between the two favorites, who tore at each other and accused each other of being “liars” or “corrupt”.

The election campaign, which the candidates conducted in bulletproof vests, was also tense. It involved a lot of personal attacks, delivered few projects for Brazil and took place in a toxic climate.

So, for many Brazilians, electing Lula in the first round would allow them to “end it” and avoid four more weeks of campaigning until a second round on October 30.

“False” polls

But a second round could allow Bolsonaro to mobilize his troops and find new momentum.

On his Twitter account, he published messages of support from his few allies: former US President Donald Trump, who called on Brazilians to “re-elect one of the greatest presidents of any country in the world”, as well as former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban .

But hoping for a first-round win, Lula’s team championed the “useful vote,” eyeing the voters’ side of Ciro Gomes (center left), who ranks 4th in the polls with 5% of voting intentions .

Jair Bolsonaro said it would be “abnormal” if he didn’t get at least 60 percent of the vote on Sunday, dismissing “false” polls.

“I think he will contest the result if he loses,” said Mr. Laureno, “but that doesn’t mean he will succeed. The international community will quickly recognize the result.”

The ex-army captain has launched countless attacks on the reliability of electronic ballot boxes, raising the risk of a Brazilian repeat of the attack on Washington’s Capitol in 2021 after Trump’s defeat.

The military showed no signs of unrest, and the United States indicated it was “watching the election closely.”

More than 500,000 members of the security forces are tasked with providing security, and dozens of foreign observers are monitoring the progress of the vote until 17:00 (20:00 GMT).

Lula was due to vote in Sao Bernardo do Campo near Sao Paulo and Bolsonaro in Rio in the morning before following the results in Brasilia (10-11pm GMT).

“Democracy versus Fascism”

Lula, leader of the Workers’ Party (PT), has assembled a huge 10-party coalition that reaches into the centre-right of his running mate, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, who was chosen to placate business circles .

Bolsonaro competes under the label of the small Liberal Party (PL) and enjoys enthusiastic support from evangelicals, agribusiness and the pro-gun lobby, and more cautious backing from employers.

The majority of Brazilians expect their president to fight the hunger that afflicts 30 million of them, inflation and unemployment that have increased precariousness and corruption.

On Sunday, Brazilians will also elect their 513 federal deputies, the governors of the 27 states and the deputies of the state legislatures. Like the President, all serve four-year terms. A third of the 81 Senate seats will also be renewed, but for eight years.