Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is set to become Brazil’s next president.
The leftist former president, widely known as ‘Lula’, won 50.83% of the vote, with more than 98% of the votes counted in a hard-fought second round on Sunday.
The race was tight, with incumbent Jair Bolsonaro being denied a second term despite winning 49.17% of the vote.
The two candidates had previously faced off in a first round of voting on October 2, but neither got more than half the vote, forcing Sunday’s second round of votingwhich became a referendum on two radically different visions for Brazil.
More than 156 million people were eligible to vote in this year’s elections. The candidates themselves cast their ballots early Sunday, with Lula voting at a public school in the São Paulo metropolitan area and Bolsonaro voting in Rio de Janeiro early Sunday morning.
Wearing a yellow and green T-shirt, the colors of the Brazilian flag, Bolsonaro said: “God willing, we will be victorious later today. Or better yet, Brazil will be victorious,” as he cast his vote at a polling station in the city’s Maréchal Hermès neighborhood.
Supporters of Lula da Silva crowded Avenida Paulista in São Paulo on Sunday evening after the polls closed. The mood was festive even before the results were announced, with street vendors selling beer and food.
The election took place in a tense and polarized political climate in Brazil. The country is currently struggling with high inflation, limited growth and growing poverty.
Both candidates had used this election to attack every turn, and growing anger eclipsed polls and clashes between their supporters left many voters worried about what was to come. Voters in Sao Paulo told CNN they want to end this election season as soon as possible so the country can move forward.
Although there were no reports of political violence on Sunday, Lula da Silva’s allies accused police of blocking buses and cars carrying Lula voters from accessing voting sites. However, the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which organizes elections in Brazil, said no one was prevented from voting and refused to extend voting hours, Reuters reports. The Federal Highway Police said they had complied with court orders, she added.
Lula da Silva was president for two terms, from 2003 to 2006 and from 2007 to 2011, where he led the country through a commodity boom that helped fund huge social welfare programs and lift millions of people from poverty.
He left office with a 90% approval rating – a record tarnished, however, by Brazil’s biggest corruption probe, dubbed ‘Operation Car Wash’, which has led to charges against hundreds of politicians and officials. high-ranking businessmen across Latin America. He was convicted of corruption and money laundering in 2017, but a court overturned his conviction in March 2021, paving the way for his political rebound.
Bolsonaro ran for president in 2018 with the conservative Liberal Party, campaigning as a political underdog and anti-corruption candidate, and earning the nickname “Trump of the Tropics”. A divisive figure, Bolsonaro has become known for his bombastic statements and his conservative agenda, which is backed by prominent evangelical leaders in the country.
But poverty grew during his presidency and his popularity took a hit from his handling of the pandemic, which he called a “little flu”, before the virus killed more than 680,000 people in the country.
Environmentalists have warned that the future of the rainforest could be at stake in this election. Bolsonaro’s government has become known for supporting ruthless land exploitation in the Amazon, leading to record deforestation figures.