Lula wins Brazil’s presidential runoff

(Update: Reledes, rewrites throughout to discuss Lula’s win)

Sao Paulo, Oct 30 (EFE).- Leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday won Brazil’s presidential runoff with 50.84 percent of the votes, defeating ultrarightist President Jair Bolsonaro, who obtained 49.16 percent of the votes, with 99.1 percent of the ballots counted.

The head of the Workers Party (PT), who had governed Brazil from 2003-2010, will become president once again for a four-year term on Jan. 1, 2023, in a sharply divided country.

Lula garnered 59.7 million votes, while Bolsonaro obtained 57.7 million, according to the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the country’s top election authority.

The election was a close one all during the vote count – in fact, the closest in Brazilian history – up until the last moments, with the actual vote tally failing to correspond to prior voter survey results, which had given Lula between a four and eight percent advantage in the runoff.

But the fact that the election was so close demonstrates the high polarization within Brazilian politics and society, a polarization that – at times during the campaign – had led to episodes of political violence.

As occurred in the first round of the election earlier this month, the main voter survey firms had not managed to predict the outcome with much certainty.

Bolsonaro, an arch-conservative apologist for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, was initially leading in the vote tally but by the time 67.6 percent of the ballots had been counted the progressive former president had taken a narrow lead, which he maintained until the end.

The former lathe operator and union leader had also won a plurality in the first round of the election on Oct. 2, although the 48.4 percent of the votes he obtained – compared with 43.2 percent for Bolsonaro and the remainder spread among several other candidates – was not enough to give him the required majority that would have enabled him to avoid the runoff.

With the win, the 77-year-old Lula will once again lead Latin America’s largest economy.

During the campaign, he promised to “rebuild” Brazil, reverse many of Bolsonaro’s conservative policies, end hunger – which today affects some 33 million of his countrymen – and “put the poor into the budgets” of the state combining social, fiscal and environmental responsibility.

He also said that he would serve for only a single term, meaning that he will leave the political stage in four years.

Lula’s win was something that appeared to be out of the question just a few years ago due to the multiple corruption charges he was facing, but in 2021 the Supreme Court overturned the convictions against him on technicalities after he had spent 580 days in prison, thus restoring to him his political rights and – of course – the right to run for public office.

EFE cms/mp/enb/bp

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