Brazil presidential election what to remember after the close results

Brazil presidential election: what to remember after the close results between Lula and Bolsonaro at the Prem

On to the second round. In Brazil, former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva edged out outgoing far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro by five points in the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, October 2. Lula won 48.43% of the vote versus 43.20% for his rival, according to near-final results from the Supreme Electoral Court* (TSE) Monday morning.

>> Presidential elections in Brazil: follow the results of the first round and the reactions in our live

The gap between the two competitors is noticeably narrower than the polls predicted. With no candidate receiving 50% of the vote, a hard-fought second round is set to take place on Sunday 30th October. “It will take a long time, it’s a new campaign that’s starting”, comments franceinfo Christophe Ventura, research director at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (Iris) and author of Geopolitics of Latin America (Eyrolles edition). “We cannot rule out that the tensions could lead to violence or direct confrontations between activists,” he adds.

Here’s what to remember from the results of the first round of voting, which saw more than 30 million Brazilians abstain from the 156 million voters standing despite the mandatory voting.

A much narrower distance than expected

For several months, the polls had given Lula a big lead and given the Labor Party hope of a first-round victory. As The Economist* points out, the year-to-date difference in voting intentions between the ex-president and the outgoing head of state is often more than 10 points: almost 20 points difference at the beginning of the year. 12 points difference in early March, 13 points in early summer, then 10 points a month ago. In most polls, Jair Bolsonaro failed to get 40% of voting intentions.

On Saturday evening, a recent survey by the benchmark institute Datafolha* reported 50% voting intentions for Lula, far ahead of Jair Bolsonaro (36%). A 14-point lead that was ultimately not confirmed in the first round on Sunday. “No one can hide their surprise, it’s not about the results predicted by the pollsters, which are again inferior,” commented Christophe Ventura. The latter also highlights the role of abstention, which could have benefited the head of state and his populist movement.

Jair Bolsonaro gets more than 40% of the vote

The outgoing president achieved his best results in the Midwest, South and Southeast regions, notes Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo*. In the state of Roraima in the northwest of the country, Jair Bolsonaro received 69.6% of the vote. “Bolsonaro is quite strong in the south of the country, a white region that is the heart of the Brazilian countryside, with large conservative farmers who are very attached to property,” develops Christophe Ventura.

The Latin America specialist notes the good grades of the presidential candidate in São Paulo, the economic center of Brazil, and in Rio de Janeiro. According to the latter, this may reflect the vote of part of the centre-right and traditional right in favor of Jair Bolsonaro, despite Lula’s more centrist positions during the campaign and the choice of Geraldo Alckmin, tenor of the right, as running mate. The Brazilian republican front against the extreme right was not fully convincing.

With more than 40 percent of the votes, the far-right president “was not severely punished for his record” and “demonstrated his power”, Christophe Ventura continues. Jair Bolsonaro “is a very important political force, a social culture, a way of life,” he enumerates. “It’s a reality of the very individualistic Brazilian society, which believes that the country’s problems are linked to internal enemies and that the institutions are corrupt.”

A half-hearted push for Lula

Unlike Jair Bolsonaro, the former steelworker and president from 2003 to 2010, who spent 580 days in prison, has scored more in line with pollsters’ forecasts. A “disappointing” result threatened as victory in the first round, “but Lula understood what he had to do,” said Christophe Ventura angrily. This result “leaves him in an advantageous position for the second round”, but to win it he must win votes among the voters of candidates Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes. The centre-right candidate and her centre-left competitor took third and fourth place with 4.16% and 3.04% of the vote, respectively. “It will continue here. Lula will have to negotiate with them,” stresses the IRIS researcher.

As for Jair Bolsonaro, the former left-wing president “strengthened where he needed to be strong”, namely in the poorer and rural Nordeste region. Lula achieved his best result (74.2%) in the state of Piauí, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo*.

“The fight goes on,” says Lula, Bolsonaro ready to “play the second half”

On Sunday evening, the two winning candidates reacted to the result. “It’s just overtime. I can tell you that we will win this election (…) The fight goes on until the final victory,” Lula said. The former president told his supporters on Paulista Avenue in São Paulo that he was “absolutely certain that divine justice will enable us to win these elections and regain the dignity of the Brazilian people”. And the candidate adds: “It’s as if fate would have it that I work a little more.”

“We have defeated the lies of the polls,” said his far-right rival Jair Bolsonaro, who repeatedly suggested during the campaign that he could challenge the poll results. The outgoing president said he was optimistic about playing “the second half” of the presidential election. As the Guardian* notes, on Sunday night he also set out to do a better job of convincing the most disadvantaged Brazilians that they would benefit more from his programme. “I understand that there have been many votes on the living conditions of Brazilians affected by inflation, especially basic needs. I understand that many people want change, but sometimes some changes can end up being for the worse,” he said.

Voters also elected congressmen, senators and regional governors

The presidential election wasn’t the only election held in Brazil on Sunday. Voters were also called to the polls to elect the governors of 27 states, including the federal district of Brasilia, the state’s 513 MPs and one-third of the 81 senators, and the state legislatures.

These elections offered a series of notable victories for the Bolsonarist camp. The Associated Press* reports that the far-right president’s Liberal Party (PL) is set to become the main political force in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies (with 99 MPs). Two of Jair Bolsonaro’s former ministers are also entering Congress: former environment minister Ricardo Salles and former health minister Eduardo Pazuello. Even if Lula wins the second round of the presidential elections on October 30, El País* explains that he will be dealing with a very conservative House of Representatives and that it will be extremely difficult for him to find a majority.

*These links point to pages in Portuguese, English or Spanish.