SAO PAULO, Oct 30 – Luis Inacio Lula da Silva narrowly defeated President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday 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 a decade.
The Supreme Electoral Court declared Lula the next president with 50.9% of the vote compared to 49.1% for Bolsonaro. The inauguration of the 77-year-old Lula is scheduled for January 1.
Challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has won the election to become Brazil’s next president by a whisker, defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro after a bitterly fought campaign.
The vote was a rebuke to the fiery far-right populism of Bolsonaro, who emerged from the backbenches of Congress to form a new conservative coalition but lost support as Brazil took one of the worst hits from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a speech on Sunday night, Lula said he would unite a divided country and ensure Brazilians “put down weapons that should never have been taken”, while calling for international cooperation to preserve the Amazon rainforest and make global trade fairer.
“I will govern 215 million Brazilians, and not just 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 the rally in Sao Paulo shortly after 8:00 p.m. (1100 GMT), waving from a car sunroof. 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 and chanted, “It’s time, Jair, it’s time to go,” in a video circulating on social media.
The 67-year-old Bolsonaro, who for years has argued without reason that Brazil’s electoral system is prone to fraud, initially kept quiet about the result. Last year, he openly discussed the refusal to accept the results of the vote.
Electoral authorities are preparing for him to challenge the result, sources told Reuters, and have made security arrangements in case his supporters stage protests. Two hours after electoral authorities declared Lula the winner, Bolsonaro and his campaign made no public announcements about the result.
US President Joe Biden congratulated Lula on his victory in “free, fair and credible elections”, joining a chorus of compliments from European and Latin American leaders.
His win cements a new “pink tide” in Latin America following landmark left-wing victories in Colombia and elections in Chile, a reflection of the regional political shift two decades ago that put Lulu on the world stage.
Lula promised a return to the state-led economic growth and social policies that helped lift millions of people out of poverty when he was president from 2003 to 2010. He also promises to fight the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, now at its highest level in 15 years, and make Brazil a leader in global climate talks.
“It’s been four years of hatred, the negation of science,” celebrated Ana Valeria Doria, 60, a doctor from Rio de Janeiro, who celebrated with a drink. “It won’t be easy for Lulu to run a division in this country. But for now, it’s pure luck.”
Lula, a former union leader born into poverty, organized strikes against Brazil’s military government in the 1970s. His two-year presidency was marked by a commodity-driven economic boom, and he left office with record popularity.
But his Labor Party was later hit by a deep recession and a record-breaking corruption scandal that saw him jailed for 19 months on a bribery conviction that was overturned by the Supreme Court last year.
In his third term, Lula will face a stagnant 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.