SAO PAULO, Oct. 30 (Reuters) – Leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defeated President Jair Bolsonaro in an election on Sunday, marking a stunning comeback for Lula and the end of decades of Brazil’s right-wing government.
Lula received 50.9% of the vote, compared to 49.1% for Bolsonaro, and the Supreme Electoral Court declared former President Lula the winner. Lula, 77, will be inaugurated on January 1.
The poll condemned the fiery far-right populism of Bolsonaro, who built a new conservative coalition from the backbenches of Congress but lost support as Brazil ran into one of the worst death tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bolsonaro, 67, who for years has made baseless claims that Brazil’s voting system is prone to fraud, was initially quiet about the result. Election officials are bracing for his rejection of the decision, sources told Reuters, and have made security arrangements in case his supporters hold protests.
“Democracy,” Lula wrote on Twitter, above a photo of the Brazilian flag under his left arm, missing his little finger, the result of an accident he suffered as a metal worker decades ago.
Ecstatic supporters greeted him at a rally on Sao Paulo’s Ballista Avenue ahead of the planned speech. “It’s time Jair, time to leave already,” Vice President-elect Geraldo Alcmin and campaign aides chanted in a video circulating on social media.
Foreign leaders from U.S. President Joe Biden to France’s Emmanuel Macron to Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez offered congratulatory messages to Lula.
Lula pledged to return to the state-led economic growth and social policies that helped lift millions of people out of poverty during his 2003 to 2010 presidency. He also pledged to fight the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, currently at a 15-year high. and make Brazil a leader in global climate talks.
Echoing the regional political shift that launched Lula onto the world stage two decades ago, his victory consolidates a new “pink wave” in Latin America after major left-wing victories in elections in Colombia and Chile.
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 Labor party was later marred by a deep recession and a record corruption scandal that saw him jailed for 19 months on bribery charges that were overturned by the Supreme Court last year.
In his third term, Lula will face a sluggish economy, tighter budget constraints and a more hostile legislature. Bolsonaro’s allies form the largest coalition in Congress after this month’s general election, underscoring the enduring strength of his conservative coalition.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and has openly discussed refusing to accept the results of last year’s referendum.
Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Lisandra Paraguasu, Brian Ellsworth and Anthony Bodle; Editing by Brad Haynes, Daniel Wallis and Grant McCool
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