Former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won a hard-fought election in Brazil on Sunday, stripping hard-right Jair Bolsonaro of a second term.
Lula won 50.8% of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 49.2% with 99.1% of the voting machines counted, which the Supreme Electoral Court said was enough to “mathematically define” the outcome of the race.
It marks a stunning political comeback for Lula, who was jailed in 2018 for 19 months on corruption convictions that the Supreme Court overturned last year, paving the way for him to seek a third presidential term.
For months, it appeared Lula was headed for an easy win as he stoked nostalgia for his presidency, as Brazil’s economy boomed and social assistance helped tens of millions join the middle class.
But while Lula led the October 2 first-round election with 48% of the vote, Bolsonaro was a close second with 43%, showing that opinion polls significantly underestimated his popularity.
Lula’s victory marks the first time since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985 that the incumbent president has not been re-elected. Its inauguration is scheduled for January 1.
Bolsonaro had led throughout the first half of the count, and as soon as da Silva passed him, cars on the streets of downtown Sao Paulo began honking.
People could be heard in the streets of the Ipanema district of Rio de Janeiro shouting: “It turned!
Da Silva’s hotel headquarters in downtown Sao Paulo only erupted after the final result was announced, underscoring the tension that characterized this race.
A former labor 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. .
In his third term, Lula will face a sluggish economy, tighter budget constraints and a more hostile legislature.
Bolsonaro’s allies form the largest bloc in Congress after general elections this month revealed the enduring strength of his conservative coalition.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly made baseless allegations of voter fraud and last year openly discussed his refusal to accept the results of the vote.
Election authorities are preparing for him to challenge the result, sources told Reuters, including security preparations in case his supporters take to the streets.
US President Joe Biden congratulated Lula on his victory in “free, fair and credible elections”, in a statement adding that he looked forward to continued cooperation between the countries.
Additional reports by agencies
The Independent Gt