Incumbent Jair Bolsonaro garnered more votes than expected in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, enough to force a run-off against left-wing opponent and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and a surprising result defying polling that suggested a massive lead or even an outright first-round victory for Lula.
According to the Associated Press, Lula managed to secure 48.4% of the votes—falling slightly short of the 50% mark which would have handed him an outright victory.
Bolsonaro, who was expected to face a 14-point deficit, received 43.2% of all the valid votes—with the remaining votes being shared among the nine other first-round candidates.
In the run-up to Sunday’s elections, Bolsonaro and his supporters had been dismissive of polling projections, while pollsters suggested that a significant number of centrist voters switched their votes in favor of the incumbent president.
The far-right Bolsonaro will now face Lula in what is expected to be a deeply polarizing run-off election on October 30.
Despite previous concerns, Sunday’s first-round elections did not witness any major political violence, the AP report adds.
As pollsters put him significantly behind his opponent Lula, Bolsonaro turned to a page from former U.S. President Donald Trump’s playbook by questioning the integrity of the elections. During his campaign, Bolsonaro attacked Brazil’s electronic voting machines and claimed without evidence they would be easy to manipulate. Despite outperforming the polls, Bolsonaro on Sunday once again suggested potential electoral fraud may have taken place and said he would wait for the country’s military to verify the results. Bolsonaro has also refused to answer if he would accept the final results of the election in the event he is defeated.
The 2022 Brazilian elections follow a controversial four-year term by Bolsonaro, who has been criticized for eroding Brazil’s democratic institutions, creating an ecological disaster in the Amazon and failing to tackle the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Brazil. Despite these controversies, Bolsonaro has attempted to project himself as the defender of conservative values in Brazil while trying to paint Lula’s leftist policies as economically disastrous. Lula—who served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010—has been credited for building the country’s social welfare system. But Lula and his party have also been tainted by a series of corruption scandals that resulted in him facing prison time.
Brazil election: Lula and Bolsonaro to face run-off (BBC)
Brazil election enters runoff as Bolsonaro dashes Lula’s hope of quick win (Reuters)