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Close contest sets up Brazil runoff vote

By SERGIO HELD | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-10-04 07:42
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Brazilians rush to cast their votes after the gates of a polling station are opened in the northeastern city of Salvador on Sunday. FELIPE IRUATA / REUTERS

Bolsonaro to face challenger Lula after latter gains edge in weekend election

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will face off with the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, in a runoff presidential vote on Oct 30 after neither secured enough votes to win outright in an election on Sunday.

Lula da Silva, the left-wing leader of the Workers' Party, managed a remarkable political comeback to outdo his rival with 48.4 percent of the vote. Bolsonaro, who leads the right-wing Liberal Party, obtained more than 43 percent of support. In Brazil, a candidate must win at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

Almost 123 million people cast ballots on Sunday. The election was marked by long lines at polling stations, with voting mandatory for people aged 18 to 70. Many waited in line for hours to fulfill that duty.

Votes were also cast for members of the lower house of Congress, and for about a third of the Senate. After the election, Bolsonaro's Liberals appeared poised to have the highest number of members in the lower house of Congress and the Senate,but not a majority in either house.

At the state level, governors and members of regional legislative assemblies were also elected, and some runoff elections are also expected for those. All the runoffs will be held on Oct 30.

Despite pre-election polling giving Lula da Silva, known simply as Lula,a wide margin of victory, the close call at the weekend lets Bolsonaro retain hope of holding on to power.

'Not a small difference'

"Lula won with more than 6 million votes of difference, and this is important," Joao Cumaru, a political scientist in the city of Recife, told China Daily. "It is not a small win; it is not a small difference. Lula still can win in the runoff, but things will become harder and harder."

As for the gap between the actual poll results and the projections,questions are being raised.

"Many institutes must change their methodology … many surveys were very distant from the results we saw in the polls," Sergio Moro, a former justice minister in Bolsonaro's administration who was elected as a congressman on Sunday, told Brazilian television as the results became known.

Moro was the prosecutor in a case that led to Lula being sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2018. Lula served 19 months before the sentence was overturned in 2019. He was only able to run because the charges were vacated. The fact that he now has a significant chance of becoming president again marks a remarkable change of fortunes for Lula, a subtext seen throughout the campaign.

Two other candidates, Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet, obtained over 3 percent and over 4 percent of the vote, respectively. Their support could now tip the balance to any of the two candidates in the runoff.

"Lula will have to ask for more support from other parties, from the center, and maybe he can announce the name of his minister of the economy. If he does that, he will obtain more support," said Cumaru.

Daniel Zovatto, regional director at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an intergovernmental organization that monitored the election,said the legitimacy of the electoral process has been established and therefore it commits the candidates to play by the rules of the game."This is good news for the Brazilian democracy," Zovatto said.

The winner of the runoff at the end of the month will face a complex political and economic situation.High inflation and the need to balance fiscal expenditures are just some of the challenges ahead.Another will be helping the 33 million Brazilians who live in poverty.Yet another will be the protection of the Amazon rainforest.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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