Leftist Lula wins race for Brazil’s presidency

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Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds a Brazilian flag while leaving a polling station in Sao Paolo during Sunday's presidential runoff election. Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

On Sunday, former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a tight runoff race that marked a stunning comeback for the leftist leader.

Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) on Sunday said the country’s presidential election was “mathematically defined” with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva taking more votes than incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

Lula had 50.8% of votes compared with 49.2% for Bolsonaro with 98.8% of voting machines voting machines counted, according to date published on the TSE website.

The Supreme Electoral Court, which runs the elections, said Lula’s win was a mathematical certainty.

All eyes are now on Bolsonaro and whether he will accept the result. His defeat marked the end of the country’s most right-wing government in decades.

Bolsonaro had been leading throughout the first half of the vote count and, as soon as Lula overtook him, cars in the streets of downtown Sao Paulo began honking their horns.

People in the streets of Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighbourhood could be heard shouting, “It turned!”

“He’s the best for the poor, especially in the countryside,” said retired government worker Luiz Carlos Gomes, 65, who hails from Maranhao state in the poor northeast region. “We were always starving before him.”

It was Brazil’s most polarising election since its return to democracy in 1985 after a military dictatorship that Lula, a former union leader, rallied against and Bolsonaro, a former army captain, invokes with nostalgia.

It is tradition in Brazil for the losing candidate to speak first and accept the election loss, before the new president addresses the nation.

It remained to be seen if Bolsonaro would concede defeat. Without proof, he has described the voting system as fraud-prone, raising concern he may not concede, following the example of his ideological ally, former US President Donald Trump.

It is a stunning return to power for Lula, 77, who previously served as president from 2003 to 2010, when Brazil experienced a commodity-driven economic boom. 

But corruption scandals have damaged the reputation of his Workers Party and Lula was also jailed for 19 months on bribery convictions, which were overturned
by the Supreme Court last year.

Bolsonaro becomes the first incumbent president not to win re-election since Brazil returned to democracy in 1985.

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