Highly contested Brazil Presidential election Less than 24 hours away, and for many Brazilians, the stakes couldn’t be greater.
Two household names – former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and current leader Jair Bolsonaro – are vying to become the country’s next president. Depending on who ultimately wins, Latin America’s largest economy is likely to either continue on Bolsonaro’s conservative and pro-business path, or take a left turn under Lula.
In recent weeks, the two candidates have stepped up their efforts to attract voters. But that is a daunting task in a country where 85% of voters say they have already made up their mind, according to a Datafolha poll on Thursday.
For Lula, more votes could mean winning the first round of voting, without the need for a run-off. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro needs to catch up, having fallen 14 points behind his rival in the same poll.
Brazilians will vote for their next president on Sunday 2 October in the first round of elections. On the same date, state governors, senators, federal representatives, and state representatives will also be selected for the 26 states in addition to the federal district.
Voting is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. local time in Brasilia (7 a.m. ET) and end at 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET).
In the Brazilian electoral system, the winning candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate exceeds this limit, a second round of voting will be organized, in which the choices will be narrowed down to the first two candidates from the first round.
In Brazil, polls always estimate the potential performance of candidates in the first round (competing with all the other candidates) and in the second round (with only two of the best candidates).
More than 156 million Brazilians are eligible to vote.
Bolsonaro and Lula are the two candidates to watch closely. Although other candidates are also in the race, they poll with single-digit percentages and are unlikely to pose much competition.
Lula, 76, was president of Brazil for two terms – from 2003 to 2006 and from 2007 to 2011. A household name, he first appeared on the political scene in the 1970s as a leader of labor strikes that challenged the military regime.
In 1980, he was one of the founders of the Workers’ Party (PT), which later became the main left-wing political force in Brazil. Lula’s presidential terms were marked by programs aimed at reducing poverty and inequality in the country, but were also shaken by the revelations of a corruption scheme involving payments to congressional representatives to support government proposals. Due to the lack of evidence of his involvement, Lula himself was not included in the investigation into this scheme.
Lula’s presidential campaign is now promising a new tax system that will allow for increased public spending. He has vowed to end hunger in the country that returned during Bolsonaro’s government. Lula also promises to work on reducing carbon emissions and deforestation in the Amazon.
Bolsonaro is a former army captain who was a federal representative for 27 years before running for president in 2018. A marginal figure in politics during most of this time, he emerged in the mid-2010s as the leading figure of a more radical right wing that views Labor as its main enemy.
As president, Bolsonaro has pursued a conservative agenda, supported by important evangelical leaders. His government was also famous for its support of the brutal exploitation of land in the Amazon region, which led to record deforestation records. Environmentalists have warned that the future of the rainforest may be at stake in this election.
In his platform, Bolsonaro promised to increase mining, privatize public companies and generate more sustainable energy to lower energy prices. He has pledged to continue paying the 600 Brazilian real (about $110) a monthly stipend known as the Auxilio Brasil.
Vote counting begins immediately after the (mostly electronic) ballots close on Sunday.
Brazilian electoral authorities say they expect the final results of the first round to be officially announced that evening, on October 2. It will be published on the Electoral Tribunal’s website.
In the past few elections, the results were officially announced two to three hours after the voting ended. If the lead candidate cannot muster more than half of all valid votes, the second round will be held on October 30.
Observers will be watching closely to see if all candidates publicly accept the outcome of the vote. Bolsonaro, who has been accused of fomenting violent rhetoric among his supporters, sought to cast doubt on the outcome and said the results should be considered suspicious if he did not win “at least 60%”.
Both he and his conservative liberal party have claimed that Brazil’s e-voting system is vulnerable to fraud – an entirely baseless claim that has led to comparisons to the false electoral claims of former US President Donald Trump.
There have been no confirmed cases of voter fraud in electronic voting in Brazil.
The Supreme Electoral Court also rejected the allegations of flaws in the system, calling them “false and untrue, with no basis in reality.”