Brazilian expats in Portugal look ahead to Sunday's presidential vote

Dancing to the beats of their homeland ... in Portugal. These Brazilian expats came to the city of Braga in search of a better life.
Dancing to the beats of their homeland ... in Portugal. These Brazilian expats came to the city of Braga in search of a better life. Copyright Pedro Sacadura
By Pedro Sacadura with AP
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The city of Braga in Portugal has seen an influx of Brazilian expats in recent years in search of a better life. The city is now home to some 13,000 Brazilians. However, some hope the elections could serve as a turning point for Brazil.

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Braga in Portugal is home to nearly 13,000 Brazilians and many of them will be paying close attention to the presidential elections back home this weekend.

Eleven candidates are officially in the race, but only incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and previous president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are thought to stand a chance of making it through to the second round of voting, which is scheduled for 30 October. 

Polls suggest Lula may even get the required 50% vote share in the first round on Sunday, negating the need for a run-off.

"Our wish is that regardless of who wins, they work for Brazilians so that they can have the desire to stay and not the unbridled desire to go in search of something better," said Maria Maia, who came to Braga six years ago and set up a cheese business.

"I hope to see a better Brazil. A Brazil that gives better expectations to Brazilians, so that they are proud of the country, proud of being Brazilian."

Far-right leader Bolsonaro will need a strong performance to ensure a runoff against leftist Lula.

Hours before the debate on Brazil's national Globo network, a poll by market research company, Datafolha indicated a first-round victory was within reach for Lula.

For that reason, Mauro Paulino, the former head of Datafolha, said Thursday’s debate was “the most important since Brazil’s re-democratization” in 1985. 

Sunday’s election could signal the return of the world’s fourth-largest democracy to a leftist government after four years of far-right politics led by a president criticised for challenging democratic institutions, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that killed nearly 700,000 people and an economic recovery that has yet to be felt by the poor. 

Polls show Lula with a commanding lead but Bolsonaro's supporters say the numbers underestimate the far-right leader’s popularity.

“The ideas of the right have always been ours: family, religion, education, sexual boundaries. We are conservative,” said María do Carmo, who will vote for Bolsonaro again on Sunday. 

Echoing many other Bolsonaro backers, do Carmo added that she mistrusted polls and the country’s electronic voting machines.

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