Brazil heads for runoff as Bolsonaro beats expectations


Brazil’s bitterly divisive presidential election is headed for a runoff on October 30 as incumbent Jair Bolsonaro beat first-round expectations to finish a closer-than-expected second to front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula, the veteran leftist seeking a presidential comeback, had 48.3 percent of the vote to 43.3 percent for the far-right president with over 99 percent of polling stations reporting, according to the Superior Electoral Tribunal. At least 50 percent of votes had been needed to avoid a runoff.

It was an unexpectedly strong result for combative ex-army captain Bolsonaro — and for Brazil’s far-right, which also had surprise good showings in a series of key Congressional and governors’ races. Lula, the popular but tarnished ex-president who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, had been the favorite to win the race — possibly in a single round.

On the eve of the election, leading polling firm Datafolha had given Lula 50 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Bolsonaro. Instead, the Latin American giant’s polarizing campaign will now enter a new phase as Bolsonaro, 67, and Lula, 76, dig in for a four-week fight to the final bell.

In Bolsonaro’s camp, the mood was celebratory. “I called it: I said Datafolha would get it wrong, again,” Bolsonaro’s congressman son Eduardo wrote on Twitter. Lula rallied his disappointed backers, vowing: “we are going to win these elections” in a speech to hundreds of supporters decked out in Workers’ Party red on Sao Paulo’s main avenue.

“We’re going to keep fighting until the final victory,” he said.

“There’s no comparison between the Brazil (Bolsonaro) has built and the one we did.” But the result fell short of expectations for his backers, who were left fearing an ugly runoff race. “It’s going to be a difficult campaign,” said Lula fan Viviane Laureano da Silva, who had gathered with hundreds of other supporters for what they hoped would be a first-round victory celebration in central Rio de Janeiro. “But Lula’s going to win. —AFP


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