Lula narrowly defeats Bolsonaro to win Brazil presidency again
SAO PAULO – Luis Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday narrowly defeated President Jair Bolsonaro in a runoff election that marked a stunning comeback for the leftist former president and the end of Brazil’s most right-wing government in decades.
The Supreme Electoral Court declared Lula the next president, with 50.9% of votes compared with 49.1% for Bolsonaro. The 77-year-old Lula’s inauguration is scheduled for Jan. 1.
The vote was a rebuke for the fiery far-right populism of Bolsonaro, who emerged from the back benches of Congress to forge a novel conservative coalition but lost support as Brazil ran up one of the worst death tolls of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lula, in a speech on Sunday night, said he would unite a divided country and ensure that Brazilians “put down arms that never should have been taken up,” while inviting international cooperation to preserve the Amazon rainforest and make global trade more fair.
“I will govern for 215 million Brazilians, and not just for those who voted for me,” Lula said at his campaign headquarters. “There are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people, one great nation.”
Lula arrived at a rally in Sao Paulo shortly after 8:00 p.m. (1100 GMT), waving from the sunroof of a car. Ecstatic supporters near Paulista Avenue waited for him, chanting slogans and drinking champagne.
Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin and campaign aides jumped up and down chanting, “It’s time Jair, it’s time to leave already,” in a video circulating on social media.
Bolsonaro, 67, who for years has made baseless claims that Brazil’s voting system is prone to fraud, remained silent initially about the result. Last year, he openly discussed refusing to accept the results of the vote.
Electoral authorities are bracing for him to dispute the outcome, sources told Reuters, and made security preparations in case his supporters stage protests. Two hours after electoral authorities declared Lula the winner, Bolsonaro and his campaign had made no public statements about the outcome.
U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Lula for winning “free, fair and credible elections,” joining a chorus of compliments from European and Latin American leaders.
His victory consolidates a new “pink tide” in Latin America, after landmark leftist victories in Colombia and Chile’s elections, echoing a regional political shift two decades ago that introduced Lula to the world stage.
Lula has vowed a return to state-driven economic growth and social policies that helped lift millions out of poverty when he was previously president from 2003 to 2010. He also promises to combat destruction of the Amazon rainforest, now at a 15-year high, and make Brazil a leader in global climate talks.
“These were four years of hatred, of negation of science,” Ana Valeria Doria, 60, a doctor in Rio de Janeiro who celebrated with a drink. “It won’t be easy for Lula to manage the division in this country. But for now it’s pure happiness.”
A former union leader born into poverty, Lula organized strikes against Brazil’s military government in the 1970s. His two-term presidency was marked by a commodity-driven economic boom and he left office with record popularity.
However, his Workers Party was later tarred by a deep recession and a record-breaking corruption scandal that jailed him for 19 months on bribery convictions, which were overturned by the Supreme Court last year.
In his third term, Lula will confront a sluggish economy, tighter budget constraints and a more hostile legislature. Bolsonaro’s allies form the largest bloc in Congress after this month’s general election revealed the enduring strength of his conservative coalition.
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