Lula, Bolsonaro head into run-off for presidency

(Update 2: Reledes, changes headline, dateline, adds details)

Sao Paulo, Oct 2 (EFE).- Brazil’s presidential elections will enter a second round on Oct. 30 after former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the first round on Sunday but failed to secure enough votes over incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro to avoid a run-off.

With 99.8 percent of the votes counted, Lula took 48.38 percent of the support and Bolsonaro 43.24 percent in a race much tighter than polls had forecast – they had placed Lula 10-15 points ahead of Bolsonaro and even contemplated the possibility that he could exceed 50 percent threshold needed to secure an outright win.

While Lula was less than two points (4.7 million votes) away from an outright victory, his first-round win left a bitter aftertaste due to the unexpected show of force for Bolsonaro both at the national and regional levels.

In Sao Paulo, a smiling Lula assured he will win the second round and expressed confidence that he will return to the presidency that he held between 2003 and 2010.

“We are going to win these elections – this for us is simply extra time,” he said.

However, aware that the victory was tighter than expected, Lula recalled 2018, when he followed the election from prison, barred from running in the polls after he was convicted of corruption.

“To understand what is happening today, you have to remember what was happening four years ago. I was seen as if I were a human being outside of politics,” Lula said.

In April 2021, the Supreme Court annulled the convictions for which he served 580 days in prison, and returned his political rights, allowing him to run again.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro addressed reporters in Brasilia, saying he understood there “is a desire for change” in Brazil, “but certain changes can be for the worse.”

Nonetheless he expressed confidence in victory on Oct. 30.

One of the unknowns on the day was whether the far-right leader would recognize the result if he did not win, after having led a systematic campaign questioning the reliability of the electoral system.

Commenting on the results, he did not question them or attack the electoral system again, but he did take the opportunity to reiterate his distrust of the polls.

The count kept Brazilians on edge. Bolsonaro was leading from the closing of the polling stations until Lula edged ahead at 70 percent counted, three hours after the end of voting.

Shouts of joy were heard in several cities when the overtaking took place, but the spirits of Lula’s supporters dampened as the count progressed and the need for a second round became clear.

The results confirmed a fact that had been intuited since before the start of the campaign: it is one of the most polarized elections in democratic history, as the two most voted-for candidates captured 91 percent of the votes, a figure only surpassed in 1994, when the count of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula reached 95 percent.

In third position on Sunday, at a huge distance, was a surprise: Senator Simone Tebet (4.1 percent), champion of a center-right coalition, overtook Democratic Labor Party’s Ciro Gomes (3 percent), who sank after having received 12.4 percent of the votes in 2018.

Abstention was 20.94 percent, slightly higher than the figure from four years ago (20.30 percent).

Voting day passed calmly throughout the country, and only a few isolated incidents were recorded, including 366 arrests related to 1,188 electoral crimes, according to data from the Ministry of Justice.

Brazilians also renewed regional governments and the National Congress, but the composition of the Chamber of Deputies won’t be known until Monday.

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