Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated his bitter rival, President Jair Bolsonaro, to secure his second term in charge of Brazil on Sunday after a close race in the world’s fourth-largest democracy.
The country’s Superior Electoral Court upheld the victory.
The court said Da Silva got just over 50.84% of the vote, with 99.10% of votes counted, in a run-off election that came after neither candidate garnered enough support to win earlier this month.
Pre-election polls had given da Silva, a former steelworker and labor leader known universally as “Lula,” a decisive lead.
Da Silva, who served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, is credited with implementing an extensive social welfare program during his tenure that helped bring tens of millions of people into the middle class.
But his administration is also notorious for sweeping corruption scandals that have entangled politicians and business leaders. Da Silva was himself convicted of corruption and money laundering, resulting in a 19-month prison sentence that left him sidelined in the 2018 presidential election against rival Bolsonaro.
In 2021, Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned the charges on the grounds that the judge colluded with prosecutors.
Da Silva promised during his campaign to help Brazil’s most vulnerable communities, fight illegal deforestation and set up a new ministry for indigenous peoples.
Bolsonaro, who did better than expected in elections earlier this month, has built a dedicated base by championing conservative values, pushing back against political correctness and advancing a culture warrior agenda.
Widely accused of mishandling the Covid crisis, he more recently beefed up his pandemic-era welfare package, to redistribute funds to poorer Brazilians in a last-ditch attempt to woo right-wing voters. .
He frequently described Brazil as “spiritually sick” and presented himself as a pious defender against “cultural Marxism” and perceived a leftist attack on individual freedoms.
Throughout the election, he repeatedly laid the groundwork for rejecting the results of a contest plagued by misinformation, and he insisted that Brazil’s electronic voting machines were prone to fraud. .
He never produced any evidence to support these claims.
Environmental activists around the world watched the election eagerly and could be encouraged by this outcome.
The world’s fourth-largest democracy and home to the Amazon rainforest, known as the “lungs of the world”, reached its 15-year high in deforestation this summer, with protected areas particularly hard hit, according to the Associated Press.
During his campaign, Bolsonaro vowed not to grant “one more centimeter” of land to indigenous peoples and criticized police for destroying illegal mining equipment in raids.
Da Silva’s own environmental legacy is also sticky. Although his first administration reduced forest loss by 84% in 2012, he also presided over the construction of controversial and destructive hydroelectric dams in the Amazon region.
Nevertheless, during this campaign he has pledged green tax subsidies and plans to grant nearly 200,000 square miles of protected status to the Amazon.
Associated press, Reuters and Denis Romero contributed.