Lula makes dramatic comeback with narrow Brazil poll victory
RIO DE JANEIRO: Veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won a new term as Brazilian president on Sunday (Oct 30), capping a remarkable political comeback to defeat far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a deeply divisive, down-to-the-wire runoff election.
All eyes will now be on how Bolsonaro and his supporters react to the official result, after months of alleging – without evidence – that Brazil’s electronic voting system is plagued by fraud and that the courts, media and other institutions have conspired against his far-right movement.
The victory marks a stunning turnaround for ex-metalworker Lula: He left office in 2010 as the most popular president in Brazilian history, fell into disgrace when he was imprisoned for 18 months on controversial, since-quashed corruption charges, and now returns for an unprecedented third term at age 77.
Bolsonaro, the vitriolic hardline conservative dubbed the “Tropical Trump”, meanwhile becomes the first incumbent president not to win re-election since Brazil returned to democracy at the end of its 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
Electoral officials declared the election for Lula, who had 51 per cent of the vote to 49 per cent for Bolsonaro with more than 99 per cent of polling stations reporting.
Decked out in the red of Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT), supporters exploded into celebration in cities across the country, setting off colourful fireworks in Rio de Janeiro and erupting into huge cheers in Sao Paulo.
A grinning Lula greeted euphoric supporters in Sao Paulo, the economic capital, and tweeted a single word: “Democracy”, alongside a picture of the Brazilian flag.
In tears, Bolsonaro supporters in the green and yellow of the flag – which the ex-army captain has adopted as his own – meanwhile fell to their knees to pray for a reversal, gathered outside the seat of government in the capital, Brasilia.
Bolsonaro surged to victory four years ago on a wave of outrage with politics as usual, but came under fire for his disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left more than 680,000 dead in Brazil, as well as a weak economy, polarizing style and attacks on democratic institutions.
Many fear a Brazilian remake of the Capitol riots that rocked the United States after the 2020 election loss of Bolsonaro’s political role model, Donald Trump.
Regardless of how Bolsonaro reacts, Lula will face huge challenges from the day he is inaugurated on Jan 1.
Bolsonaro’s far-right allies scored big victories in legislative and governors’ races in the first-round election on Oct 2, and will be the largest force in Congress.
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