To the disappointment of the followers of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former Brazilian president did not have enough popularity to return to the executive in Brazil and will have to face the current president, the right-wing Jair Bolsonaro, in a close second round.
The days before the elections, morale was through the roof in the ranks of the candidate of the Workers’ Party (PT). There were reasons for it. Various polls predicted a victory for Lula with more than 50% of the valid votes and, therefore, without the need for a second round.
The reality has been different. With 99.8% of the polls counted, Lula obtained 48.4% of the votes compared to 43.2% achieved by Bolsonaro.
“I am absolutely certain that divine justice will make us win the elections to recover the dignity of the Brazilian people,” exclaimed the former president, who governed the country between 2003 and 2010, before a few hundred followers and in the midst of a large police force .
A polarized and violent first round
The campaign for the first round of the elections was marked by enormous political polarization, as well as constant aggression between the candidates, especially between Lula and Bolsonaro.
In the last debate, held three days before the elections by the TV Globo network, the two candidates exchanged insults and accusations.
In his first speech, Bolsonaro accused Lula of having been the head of a “gang” of thieves during the governments of his Workers’ Party (PT) (2003-2016), even calling him a “liar” and a “traitor to Homeland”.
He was referring to the Petrobras scandal, for which the former metalworker was jailed for 18 months in 2018 and 2019, before his conviction was overturned by the supreme court.
Lula, who had been criticized for avoiding accusations of corruption in the first television duel, decided this time to go on the attack.
“If he saw himself in the mirror and knew what was happening in his government, what the vaccine gang was,” the former president launched, accusing his rival of irregularities during the purchase of covid antigens.
“On October 2, the people are going to send you home,” the leftist added, lamenting a president who “blatantly lies at all times.”
“There is nothing against my government,” snapped Bolsonaro, who continued to attack with the microphone turned off, which earned him a call to order from the moderator.
The outlook for the second round, however, does not paint for a less polarized campaign.
“The ballot promises to be a fierce dispute,” Paulo Calmon, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia, told AFP. “It will be an aggressive, low-level campaign.”
When will the second round of elections be?
The second round is scheduled for Sunday October 30 , four weeks after the first round.
What does it take to win?
The second round is defined by a simple majority of votes. In other words, whoever gets the most votes will be declared president-elect of Brazil.
The five-point advantage left the definition open and projects weeks of an intense and aggressive campaign in a deeply divided country.
Rating agency Moody’s said the results of Brazil’s election on Sunday indicate a tight race in the second round between Bolsonaro and Lula.
“The results of the first round of the presidential elections in Brazil suggest a close race in the second round. They also made it clear that the next government will continue to deal with a Congress too fragmented to advance a reform agenda,” said Samar Maziad, senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.
“Regardless of who wins the second round, they will have to govern with a Congress more oriented to the right, more liberal and pro-market, with great weight,” said economist Igor Macedo de Lucena.
Leandro Consentino, a political scientist at the Insper institute, predicts an “open end” and “an even situation” for both, with Bolsonaro showing strength in key states such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, in the southeast of Brazil and which gather 40 % of the electoral register.
Questions and accusations
Before this Sunday’s election, Bolsonaro had made repeated baseless attacks on the integrity of Brazil’s electronic voting system. The president has raised the possibility of fraud without providing evidence. Some analysts fear that he will not recognize an eventual defeat.
“The results of the polls will be respected as long as the elections are clean and transparent,” the far-right leader said during the campaign.
The president said that he expects a position from the armed forces on the transparency of the elections, after questioning the reliability of electronic voting.
During election day, several false news stories that echoed these types of accusations were revitalized on networks. One of the messages read as follows: “THE TSE (Superior Electoral Court) reduced the number of ballot boxes for Brazilians living abroad and increased it in prisons. Everyone who draws their conclusions.”
Under a 2010 law, Brazilian prisons are given ballot boxes for prisoners eligible to vote.
But this Sunday, in fact, he sent less than in the last general election in 2018: 222, compared to 233 four years ago, according to the TSE. On his side, the number of ballot boxes deployed to voters abroad went from 744 to 1,018 in that period.
Another rumor that went viral before the first round claimed that the authorities had seized three electronic ballot boxes already “programmed with at least 81% of votes for Lula” in the city of Serafina Correa, in the southeastern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
“It is a blow against Bolsonaro and a crime against his followers,” read the message, which cited a local radio station as the source of the “news.”
A photo accompanying the post showed police inspecting a TSE vehicle with cardboard boxes, each identified as an “electronic ballot box.”
But a search revealed that those images actually corresponded to a routine control of vehicles in the state of Amazonas (northwest) in 2018. The state police said then that nothing irregular was found. The local radio cited as the source of the information denied the story.
According to international observers, it was a free election.
The White House said Monday that information indicates that Brazil’s election this weekend was “free” and “fair.”
“We congratulate the people and institutions of Brazil for holding a successful first round of elections and we support their free exercise of the right to elect their next leader,” spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
All available information indicates that the elections were held in a “free, fair, transparent and credible” manner, he said. “We share the confidence of Brazil that the second (round) will also take place in the same way.”
With information from AFP, EFE and Reuters