Leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva beat his bitter rival, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, to secure his return as leader of Brazil on Sunday after a hotly contested race in the world’s fourth-largest democracy.
The country’s Superior Electoral Court upheld the victory.
The court said da Silva got just over 50.84% of the vote, with 99.10% of the votes counted, in a second round of elections which came after neither candidate garnered enough support to win outright this month.
Pre-election polls had given da Silva, a former steelworker and labor leader known universally as “Lula,” a decisive lead.
Bolsonaro, who had repeatedly fueled fears he might seek to contest and cast doubt on the outcome if he lost, did not immediately concede defeat.
Da Silva, who served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, is credited with implementing an extensive social welfare program during his tenure that helped bring tens of millions of people into the middle class.
But his administration is also notorious for sweeping corruption scandals that have entangled politicians and business leaders. Da Silva was convicted of corruption and money launderingleading to 19 months in prison which sidelined him in the 2018 presidential election against Bolsonaro.
Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned the charges last year on the grounds that the judge colluded with prosecutors.
Da Silva promised during his campaign to help Brazil’s most vulnerable communities, fight illegal deforestation and set up a new ministry for indigenous peoples.
Bolsonaro, who did better than expected in this month’s election, has built a dedicated base by championing conservative values, pushing back against political correctness and advancing a culture war agenda.
Widely blamed for mismanaging the Covid crisisit most recently beefed up its pandemic-era welfare program to redistribute funds to poorer Brazilians in a last-ditch attempt to woo right-wing voters.
He frequently described Brazil as “spiritually sickand presented himself as a pious defender against “cultural Marxism” and the left’s perceived violation of individual freedoms.
Throughout the election, he repeatedly set the stage for rejecting the results of a contest that was plagued by misinformationand he insisted that Brazil’s electronic voting machines are prone to fraud.
He never produced any evidence to support his claims.
Environmental activists around the world watched the election eagerly and could be encouraged by the outcome.
Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest, known as the “lungs of the world”, reached its highest point of deforestation in 15 years this summer, with protected areas particularly hard hit, according to the Associated Press.
Bolsonaro vowed not to grant ‘one more centimeter’ of land to indigenous peoples and slammed police for destroying illegal mining equipment during raids.
Da Silva’s own environmental legacy is also sticky. Although his first administration reduced forest loss by 84% in 2012, he also presided over the construction of controversial and destructive hydroelectric dams in the Amazon region.
Nonetheless, he has promised green tax subsidies and plans to grant protected status to nearly 200,000 square miles of the Amazon.
Associated press, Reuters and Denis Romero contributed.