BRAZIL‘s populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, and his leftist rival, former two-term President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on Monday buckled up for four more weeks of intense campaigning as the incumbent president defied pollsters to set up a tight October 30 runoff vote.
Lula, a two-term former president who was jailed on trumped-up corruption charges that were later overturned, won the most votes in Sunday’s presidential election, and for many remains the favourite to be re-elected later this month.
But Bolsonaro’s better-than-expected performance revitalized his campaign, giving credence to his claim that the pollsters were wrong to write him off in Brazil’s most fraught election since the end of military rule in 1985.
The far-right leader’s strong showing also prolonged questions about whether Brazil’s democratic institutions will be able to stand up to his unfounded allegations that the country’s voting system can’t be trusted.
Most polling firms had given Lula a 10-15-point lead ahead of Sunday’s vote, raising the possibility of a first-round victory for the leftist. But with 99.99% of electronic votes counted, Lula had taken 48.4% of votes versus 43.2% for Bolsonaro, meaning that neither secured the over 50% needed to avoid a run-off.
The remaining votes went to nine other candidates who are now eliminated from the race.
Bolsonaro’s right-wing Liberal Party (PL) won 99 seats in the 513-member lower house, up from 77, and right-leaning parties allied with Bolsonaro now control half the chamber. PL candidates won 13 of the 27 seats up for grabs in the Senate, with two more possible in runoffs, a party spokesman said.