Brazil election: Lula beats Bolsonaro in historic presidential runoff

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By Euronews  with AP, Reuters
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for president again, kisses his ticket after voting in Sao Paulo, 30 October 2022
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for president again, kisses his ticket after voting in Sao Paulo, 30 October 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Andre Penner

Brazilian voters elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as the country's new president on Sunday, giving the leftist former leader another shot at power in a rejection of incumbent Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right politics.

The runoff has been seen as the most divisive election in Brazil's history against a backdrop of concerns of political violence, corruption, rising poverty and the fate of the Amazon rain forest, amongst several other issues.

Da Silva, or Lula as he is known mononymously, received 50.9% of the vote and Bolsonaro 49.1%, according to the country’s election authority. 

Yet hours after the results were in -- and congratulations poured in from world leaders -- Bolsonaro had yet to publicly concede or react in any way.

"So far, Bolsonaro has not called me to recognise my victory, and I don't know if he will call or if he will recognize my victory," Lula told supporters celebrating his victory in Sao Paulo after the results were announced.

A source in the Bolsonaro campaign told Reuters the president would not make public remarks until Monday. The Bolsonaro campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro’s campaign had made repeated — unproven — claims of possible electoral manipulation before the vote, raising fears that, if he lost, he would not accept defeat and try to challenge the results.

Lula eyes grand coalition to return Brazil to prosperity

For Lula, the high-stakes election was a stunning comeback. 

His imprisonment for corruption sidelined him from the 2018 election won by Bolsonaro, who has used the presidency to promote conservative social values while also delivering incendiary speeches and testing democratic institutions.

“Today the only winner is the Brazilian people,” Lula said in a speech Sunday evening at a hotel in downtown Sao Paulo. 

“It’s the victory of a democratic movement that formed above political parties, personal interests and ideologies so that democracy came out victorious.”

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Brazilians living in Portugal queue at the University of Lisbon to vote in Brazil's presidential election in Lisbon, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.AP Photo/Armando Franca

Lula is promising to govern beyond his party. He says he wants to bring in centrists and even some leaning to the right and to restore the kind of prosperity the country enjoyed when he last served as president from 2003-2010. 

In April, he tapped centre-right Geraldo Alckmin, a former rival, to be his running mate. It was another key part of an effort to create a broad, pro-democracy front not just to unseat Bolsonaro but to make it easier to govern.

Yet he faces headwinds in a politically polarised society in the world's fourth-largest democracy.

Bolsonaro’s 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 did not happen during da Lula's earlier eight years in office.

This was the country’s tightest election since its return to democracy in 1985, and the first time a sitting president failed to win reelection. 

Just over 2 million votes separated the two candidates; the previous closest race, in 2014, was decided by a margin of roughly 3.5 million votes.

Da Silva’s win extended a wave of recent leftist triumphs across the region, including Chile, Colombia and Argentina.