Lula, Bolsonaro vying for Sao Paulo vote, wrapping up campaigns

Sao Paulo, Oct 1 (EFE).- Ultrarightist President Jair Bolsonaro and progressive former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday were vying for votes in Brazil’s largest city of Sao Paulo and wrapping up their presidential campaigns in the runup to the Oct. 2 nationwide elections.

The socialist leader, who is leading in the voter surveys, went on foot through Sao Paulo’s downtown streets with staffers, and the current president, running for reelection, moved through peripheral streets, never coming in contact with one another.

Sao Paulo state has 34.6 million of Brazil’s 156.5 million registered voters, almost one-fifth of the electorate.

Prohibited from proselytizing or actively pursuing their political campaigns after Friday, according to Brazilian law, both men greeted supporters and political allies as they strolled through the streets and avenues, and posed for cameras with an eye toward attracting attention a day before the historic election, for which the country is at its most politically polarized ever, according to many analysts.

Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003-2010, is trying to capture the so-called “tactical votes” that will enable him to surpass the 50 percent threshold of votes to be cast on Sunday, thus winning the election in the first round and avoiding a runoff, which – if it were to occur – would be held on Oct. 30.

According to the latest surveys, Lula is backed by about 50 percent of the tactical voters, that is to say those people who actually support one of the third candidates in the balloting but who may be peeled away by either him or Bolsonaro using the argument that a vote cast for a candidate who has absolutely no chance to win is a “wasted” vote.

The current president, in contrast to Lula’s 45-plus percent support among voters as a whole, has the support of just 36 percent of the voting public, and thus he needs to make a decisive final push if he wants to derail Lula’s chance for a first-round win.

Lula walked along Avenida Paulista, the main street in Sao Paulo’s financial district, along with his running mate, center-rightist Geraldo Alckmin, and the candidate of the Workers Party (PT) for the governorship of Sao Paulo state, former Education Minister Fernando Haddad.

The three men, who also strolled along the famous Rua Augusta greeting supporters, were followed by thousands of PT members dressed in red and waving flags despite the heavy, but brief, rain that almost dispersed the crowd before Lula even arrived.

The atmosphere among Lula’s backers was one of happiness and complete confidence that Brazil’s most charismatic president would win the election in the first round.

“I think that Lula will be elected in the first round. This is very encouraging. Thousands of people came to one of Sao Paulo’s main streets to express their support for Lula and I think we’re going to have a victorious day on Sunday,” former Sen. Eduardo Suplicy, the historic leader of the PT and who on Sunday is aspiring to win a seat in Congress as the regional representative of Sao Paulo, told EFE.

Despite trailing significantly – and perhaps insumoutably – in the polls, Bolsonaro also expressed confidence that he would obtain an absolute majority in the first round, thus guaranteeing his reelection to a second term.

“I’ve been seeing (crowds like this) for a long time. The support is unparalleled. There have been many demonstrations all over Brazil, with cars and motorbikes, by various sectors of society. There’s no way we’re going to get less than 60 percent of the votes. I expect this to happen,” the president said in brief remarks to reporters before heading a caravan of motorcyclists.

Bolsonaro invited former government minister Tarcisio Gomes de Freitas to ride as a passenger on his motorcycle. Gomes de Freitas is the candidate the ultrarightist leader supports in the Sao Paulo governor’s race and, according to the voter surveys, he will almost certainly have to face off against Haddad in a runoff vote that will decide who governs Brazil’s largest state.

The supporters of the ultrarightist leader gathered on the Plaza de Campo de Bagatelle, in northern Sao Paulo, and moved through several streets in and near that region before heading for Ibirapuera Park, a central green space in the city.

One of the big questions on the eve of the presidential vote is Bolsonaro’s potential reaction if he is defeated, given that he had asserted that he will only accept the result of the elections if they are “clean and transparent,” statements that have created great uncertainty since suspicions among Lula’s supporters are that Bolsonaro will interpret a loss as meaning the presidential election was not clean.

Since Lula emerged as the favorite in the voter surveys, Bolsonaro has been casting doubt on the security and viability of Brazil’s electronic voting system, suggesting that it could be the target of massive fraud and alleging that election authorities prefer his rival and might try to clandestinely tip the scales in Lula’s favor.

The electronic voting system has been used in Brazil, however, since 1996 without any fraud ever being detected.

EFE cm/rrt/bp

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