Polls closed Sunday in Brazil’s presidential election runoff between former leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the far-right current President Jair Bolsonaro, which has seen the incumbent slightly erode the lead of his challenger in latest opinion surveys.
After opening early Sunday morning, polls closed at 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET), with the country’s electronic ballot system set to confirm results about two hours after the voting concludes.
Neither Lula da Silva or Bolsonaro gained over 50% of the votes in the first round on October 2, forcing Sunday’s runoff vote.
Lula finished ahead in the initial contest, earning over 6 million votes, and about 5 percentage points, more than Bolsonaro. However, the President stayed ahead in the crucial southeastern states such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil has more than 156 million people eligible to vote in the election, and voting is mandatory in the country for all people between 18 and 70 years of age. Candidates voted early on Sunday, with Lula voting at a public school in the São Paulo metro Area.
Bolsonaro cast his ballot in Rio de Janeiro early on Sunday morning. Wearing a yellow and green T-shirt, the colors of the Brazilian flag, Bolsonaro said “God willing, we’ll be victorious later today. Or even better, Brazil will be victorious,” as he voted at a polling station in the Marechal Hermes district of the city.
Lula da Silva supporters thronged São Paulo Avenida Paulista on Sunday evening after polls closed. The mood was celebratory even before the results were called, with street-side vendors selling beer and food.
The election comes amid a tense and polarized political climate in Brazil. The country is currently struggling with high inflation, limited growth and rising poverty.
A poll by Datafolha on Saturday found that 52% of Brazilians would vote for Lula, while 48% would pick Bolsonaro, indicating a narrowing of opinion polls in the weeks leading up to the vote.
Both candidates have used this election to attack one another at every turn, and rising anger has overshadowed the polls and clashes among their supporters have left many voters feeling fearful of what is to come.
Voters in Sao Paulo told CNN that they are keen to end this election season as soon as possible so the country can move on.
While there were no reports of political violence on Sunday, Lula da Silva allies accused the police of blocking buses and cars carrying Lula voters from getting to voting sites.
The Superior Electoral Court (TSE), which runs Brazil’s elections, said no one had been prevented from voting and declined to extend voting hours, Reuters reports. The Federal Highway Police said they had complied with court orders, it added.
Lula da Silva was president for two terms, from 2003 to 2006 and 2007 to 2011, where he led the country through a commodities boom that helped fund huge social welfare programs and lifted millions out of poverty.
He left office with a 90% approval rating – a record tarnished however by Brazil’s largest corruption probe, dubbed “Operation Car Wash,” which led to charges against hundreds of high-ranking politicians and businesspeople across Latin America. He was convicted for corruption and money laundering in 2017, but a court threw out his conviction in March 2021, clearing the way for his political rebound.
Bolsonaro ran for president in 2018 with the conservative Liberal Party, campaigning as a political outsider and anti-corruption candidate, and gaining the moniker “Trump of the Tropics.” A divisive figure, Bolsonaro has become known for his bombastic statements and conservative agenda, which is supported by important evangelical leaders in the country.
But poverty has grown during his presidency, and his popularity levels took a hit over his handling of the pandemic, which he dismissed as the “little flu,” before the virus killed more than 680,000 people in the country.
Bolsonaro’s government has become known for its support of ruthless exploitation of land in the Amazon, leading to record deforestation figures. Environmentalists have warned that the future of the rainforest could be at stake in this election.