Brazil’s presidential election 50/50 with two thirds of votes counted

Rio de Janiero: President Jair Bolsonaro and his leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are tied in Brazil’s runoff election with two-third of the votes counted.

Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, and Lula both have about 50 per cent of the votes, the electoral court said. In the first round, Bolsonaro was ahead until about 70 per cent of the ballots were tallied. Lula ended up winning that round, with 48 per cent of the vote to 43 per cent for the incumbent.

A takes a picture with a cardboard cutout of Candidate Luiz Inacio Lula Da SilvaCredit:Getty

The election pits an incumbent vowing to safeguard conservative Christian values against a former president promising to return the country to a more prosperous past.

Because the vote is conducted electronically, initial results are out quickly and final results are usually available a few hours later.

In the first round of voting, on October 2, the first half of votes tallied showed Bolsonaro ahead, with da Silva pulling ahead later after votes from his strongholds were counted. Both men are well-known, divisive political figures who stir passion as much as loathing.

The vote will determine if the world’s fourth-largest democracy stays the same course of far-right politics or returns a leftist to the top job — and, in the latter case, whether Bolsonaro will accept defeat. There were multiple reports of what critics said appeared attempts to suppress the turnout of likely da Silva voters.

Supporters of candidate Jair BolsonaroCredit:Getty

Voting stations in the capital, Brasilia, were already crowded by morning and, at one of them, retired government worker Luiz Carlos Gomes said he would vote for da Silva.

“He’s the best for the poor, especially in the countryside,” said Gomes, 65, who hails from Maranhao state in the poor northeast region. “We were always starving before him.”

Most opinion polls before the election gave a lead to da Silva, universally known as Lula, though political analysts agreed the race grew increasingly tight in recent weeks.

For months, it appeared that da Silva was headed for easy victory as he kindled nostalgia for his 2003-2010 presidency when Brazil’s economy was booming and welfare helped tens of millions join the middle class.

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, right, and Sao Paulo gubernatorial candidate Fernando Haddad, left, greet supporters during a campaign rally in Sao Paulo at the weekend.Credit:AP

But while da Silva topped the Oct. 2 first-round elections with 48% of the vote, Bolsonaro was a strong second at 43 per cent, showing opinion polls significantly underestimated his popularity. Many Brazilians support Bolsonaro’s defence of conservative social values, and he has shored up support with vast government spending.

Candidates in Brazil who top the first round tend to win the runoff. But political scientist Rodrigo Prando said this campaign is so atypical that a Bolsonaro win could not be ruled out.

More than 150 million Brazilians are eligible to vote, yet about 20 per cent of the electorate abstained in the first round. Both da Silva and Bolsonaro have focused efforts on driving turnout. The electoral authority prohibited any federal highway police operations from affecting voters’ passage on public transport.

Still, there were multiple reports of checkpoints and traffic stops. Television network Globo reported more than 500 stops, half of which were in the northeast region, a Workers’ Party stronghold. The party filed a request for the arrest of the highway police’s director and demanded the region’s polls remain open later.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro waves to supporters upon arrival to a motorcycle rally as he campaigns for a second term.Credit:AP

Human Rights Watch, an international nonprofit, said in a statement it was “very concerned” about the reports.

Bolsonaro was first in line to cast his vote at a military complex in Rio de Janeiro. He sported the green and yellow colours of the Brazilian flag that always feature at his rallies.

“I’m expecting our victory, for the good of Brazil,” he told reporters afterward. “God willing, we will be victorious this afternoon. Actually, Brazil will be victorious.”

Da Silva voted Sunday morning in Sao Bernardo do Campo, a city outside Sao Paulo, where he lived for decades and started his political career as a union leader. He wore white, as he often has during the campaign, rather than his party’s traditional red.

“Today we are choosing the kind of Brazil we want, how we want our society to organise. People will decide what kind of life they want,” da Silva told reporters. “That’s why this is the most important day of my life. I am convinced that Brazilians will vote for a plan under which democracy wins.”

The candidates presented few proposals for the country’s future beyond affirming they will continue a big welfare program for the poor, despite very limited fiscal room going forward. They railed against one another and launched online smear campaigns — with considerably more attacks coming from Bolsonaro’s camp.

On the eve of the election, Bolsonaro shared video on Twitter of former US President Donald Trump endorsing him, saying that he has secured Brazil’s universal respect on the world stage. Da Silva has specifically criticised Bolsonaro for the nation’s fallen stature abroad, highlighting the dearth of state visits and bilateral meetings.

“Don’t lose him, don’t let that happen,” Trump said in the video. “It would not be good for your country. I love your country, but it would not be good. So get out and vote for President Bolsonaro. He’s doing the job like few people could.”

His four years in office have been marked by proclaimed conservatism and defence of traditional Christian values. He claimed that his rival’s return to power would usher in communism, legalised drugs, abortion and the persecution of churches — things that didn’t happen during da Silva’s earlier eight years in office.

On Sunday, Livia Correia and her husband, Pedro, brought her two young kids to a voting station in Rio’s Copacabana neighbourhood, where Bolsonaro supporters regularly rally. They all wore green-and-yellow shirts. Livia, 36, said she voted for Bolsonaro because he defends the things she holds dear: “family values, God and freedom of expression.”

Da Silva has homed in on Bolsonaro’s widely criticised handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and said the president failed to care for society’s neediest members. And he painted Bolsonaro as an opponent of the Amazon rainforest, given that he defanged environmental authorities and presided over a surge in deforestation.

But for many, the record of da Silva’s Workers’ Party is equally off-putting. A sprawling investigation revealed the party’s involvement in vast corruption scandals that ensnared top politicians and executives.

Da Silva himself was imprisoned for 19 months for corruption and money laundering. The Supreme Court annulled his convictions in 2019, on the grounds that the judge was biased and colluded with prosecutors. That did not stop Bolsonaro from reminding voters of the convictions.

The president’s tremendous digital mobilisation was on display in recent days as his campaign introduced fresh — and unproven — claims of possible electoral manipulation. That revived fears that Bolsonaro could challenge election results should he lose — much like Trump, whom he admires.

For months, he claimed that the nation’s electronic voting machines are prone to fraud, though he never presented evidence, even after the electoral authority set a deadline for him to do so.

More recently, allegations focused on airtime for political ads. Bolsonaro’s campaign claimed that radio stations may have hurt their candidate by failing to air more than 150,000 electoral spots.

“If da Silva wins, we’re going to have a problem,” said Pedro Correia, 40, who joined his wife and two children in Copacabana.

“It’s impossible that he wins,” he said.


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