Brazil’s tight presidential election will go into a second round after the former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva He failed to secure the overall majority he needed to avoid a run-off with the far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
With 99.1% of the votes counted, the left-wing veteran had secured 48.22% of the votes, not enough to avoid a clash with his right-wing rival on October 30. Bolsonaro, well ahead of pollsters’ predictions and buoyed by the result, won 43.38%.
Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, told reporters at a hotel in downtown Sao Paulo that “the struggle will continue until our final victory.”
“We are going to win these elections – this is extra time for us,” vowed Lula, who saw Bolsonaro elected in the 2018 election and then replaced on corruption charges.
Speaking ahead of the election, Lula said he was confident of winning the first round and would redouble his bid to regain power if a second round was necessary.
“I hope this election will be decided tomorrow, but if it isn’t, we have to behave like a football team when a match goes to extra time. We rest for 15 minutes and then we go back on the pitch to score goals that we didn’t score in normal time,” he told reporters.
Gleisi Hoffmann, head of Lula’s Workers’ Party, told reporters the campaign was not “sad or low,” and pointed to Lula’s more than 56 million votes.
“Congratulations, President Lula, on your victory,” he announced.
But the election result was a blow to progressive Brazilians who were rooting for a landslide victory against Bolsonaro, a former military leader who has repeatedly attacked the country’s democratic institutions and tarnished Brazil’s international reputation.
Bolsonaro has been accused of wreaking havoc on the environment, undermining vaccination and containment efforts and catastrophically mishandling the Covid pandemic, which has killed nearly 700,000 Brazilians.
While voting for Lula on Sunday morning in Sao Paulo, restaurant host Gabriela Leoncio said of Bolsonaro’s administration: “It’s a joke-slash-tragedy.”
Nevertheless, Bolsonaro confounded pollsters’ predictions in several key states, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Prominent Bolsonaroists were elected to Brazil’s Congress and state governors, including Bolsonaro. Former Minister of Health, Eduardo BassulloCongressman for Rio and his Former Environment Minister Ricardo Salles.
Bassulo was Bolsonaro’s health minister during the height of the pandemic, which has led to more than 685,000 deaths in Brazil. A former army general, he promoted quack treatments like hydroxychloroquine.
Meanwhile, Salles was environment minister presiding over a sharp rise in Amazonian deforestation. A federal police investigation blamed far-right ideology for making environmental crimes harder to investigate. A separate investigation found him involved in the illegal export of timber. He denied all the allegations.
Claudio Castro, the Bolsonaro-backed governor of Rio, was re-elected, while one of Bolsonaro’s most controversial former ministers, the evangelical preacher Tamares Alves, won a seat in the Senate.
Darcio de Freitas, Bolsonaro’s candidate for governor of Sao Paulo, fared better than pollsters had predicted and will face Lula ally Fernando Haddad in the second round.
“The far right will be delighted,” said political scientist Christian Lynch.
Thiago Ambaro, an academic and columnist for Folha de São Paulo newspaper, said the stronger-than-right-wing showing showed that Bolsonaro and Bolsonaro were “alive and kicking.”
“There was a sense among the left that Lula had a chance of winning in the first round … The results show that imagining the election would be a scapegoat for Bolsonaro’s disastrous policies during the pandemic is wishful thinking.”
“I feel tired,” Amparo added. “But the results show that we have no time to rest now. It’s time to take to the streets…otherwise we’re going to have a bleak future again.
“I think Bolsonaro has momentum,” said Rio de Janeiro-based political observer Thomas Tramon, though he believed Lula was still the favorite. “It was a very disappointing night for the left.”
As the right-wing victories came, there was reassurance from Lula and his allies and the need for a second round became clear.
“I think this is the chance the Brazilian people are giving me,” Lula said before heading to a celebration with his supporters on São Paulo’s Ballista Avenue. “Campaign starts tomorrow.”
In Rio de Janeiro’s historic city center, a large crowd, mostly dressed in red, drank beer and danced the samba as they waited for the final count to appear on a screen overlooking the square.
But the euphoric mood was tempered when results showed Lula was still 2 percent shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff with Bolsonaro.
“I was disappointed,” said Karin Gill, a 23-year-old university student, “because we saw that Bolsonaro is stronger than we thought.”
Elaine Azevedo, a 34-year-old security guard, was defeated as she looked up at the tall screen showing the results.
“I feel despair, pure despair,” said Acevedo, dressed head-to-toe in red and wearing a hat bearing Lula’s name. “We all thought Lula would win easily.”
But at a nearby bar a block away, Eudacio Queiroz Alves, a 65-year-old retired driver, was celebrating.
“We expected this,” he said. “The people are with Bolsonaro. I am confident that he will win.”
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