Bolsonaro exceeds the polls and forces a second round against Lula in Brazil

Special for Infobae of New York Times.

Two political titans will face off later this month in an election seen as a major test for one of the world’s largest democracies.

RIO DE JANEIRO — For months, pollsters and analysts had said that President Jair Bolsonaro was destined for failure. He was facing a large and unbreakable disadvantage in Brazil’s presidential race, and in recent weeks, polls had suggested he might even lose in the first round, which would have ended his presidency after just a mandate.

Instead, it was Bolsonaro who was celebrating. Although the contender, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former leftist president, ended the night with more votes, Bolsonaro far exceeded the forecasts and sent the race to a second round.

Da Silva received 48.4 percent of the vote on Sunday, compared to 43.23 percent for Bolsonaro, with 99.87 percent of votes counted, according to Brazil’s electoral agency. Da Silva needed to get over 50 percent to be elected president in the first round.

They will meet on October 30 in what is considered the most important vote in decades for the largest country in Latin America.

This is due in part to the dramatically different visions the two candidates have for this country of 217 million people, and also because Brazil faces a number of challenges in the years to come, including environmental threats, rising hunger , an unstable economy and a deeply polarized population.

But the election has also drawn attention in Brazil and abroad because it has been a major test for one of the world’s largest democracies. Bolsonaro has criticized the country’s voting machines, saying they are riddled with fraud — despite no proof of it — and hinting that the only way he would lose was if the election was rigged.

Bolsonaro told reporters on Sunday night that he had “overcome the lies” in the polls and that he felt he now had a lead in the second round. Even with the favorable results, he also suggested that there might have been fraud and warned that he would wait for the military to verify the results.

“Our system is not 100 percent shielded,” he said. “There is always the possibility of something abnormal happening in a fully computerized system.”

For months, Bolsonaro had said polls were underestimating his support and pointed to his huge rallies as evidence. However, all reliable polls showed him at a disadvantage. On Sunday it became clear that he was right. With most votes counted, he performed better in Brazil’s 27 states than Ipec, one of Brazil’s most prestigious pollsters, had predicted a day before the election, exceeding projections by at least eight percentage points. in 10 states.

It appears that pollsters misestimated the strength of conservative candidates across the country. Bolsonaro-backed governors and lawmakers also beat poll expectations and won many of their races on Sunday.

Cláudio Castro, governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, was resoundingly re-elected, with 58 percent of the vote, 11 percentage points higher than expected by Ipec. At least seven former Bolsonaro ministers were also elected to Congress, including his former environment minister, who oversaw spiraling deforestation in the Amazon, and his former health minister, who was widely criticized for Brazil’s delay in buying vaccines during the pandemic.

Antonio Lavareda, the president of Ipespe, another big pollster, defended his company’s research by saying he had predicted Da Silva would end up with 49 percent, versus 48 percent.

However, Ipespe also anticipated that Bolsonaro would receive 35 percent of the vote, more than 8 percentage points below the support he actually received. The poll’s margin of error was 3 percentage points. (Such a trend was noticeable in all the polls: they were almost exact regarding support for da Silva, but very wrong about Bolsonaro).

Lavareda speculated that many voters who said they would vote for less popular candidates ultimately went with Bolsonaro, or that they had lied in the polls.

Outside Bolsonaro’s home, in a wealthy beachside neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, his supporters gathered to celebrate, dance and drink beer. Many wore the t-shirt yellow green of the Brazilian national soccer team, which has become something of a uniform for many of Bolsonaro’s supporters. (The president wore one to vote, on what appeared to be a bulletproof vest or protective vest.)

“We expected him to have a 70 percent advantage” of the vote, said Silvana Maria Lenzir, 65, a retired woman who wore stickers of Bolsonaro’s face covering her chest. “Polls do not reflect reality.”

Still, over the next four weeks, Bolsonaro will have to make up ground against da Silva, who won more votes on Sunday. The right-wing president is trying to avoid becoming the first sitting president to lose re-election since beginning of modern democracy in Brazil, in 1988.

At the same time, da Silva tries complete a surprising political resurgence that years ago seemed unthinkable.

Although he finished the night as the most voted candidate, his speech to his supporters took on a somber tone. But he said that he welcomed the opportunity now to debate Bolsonaro face to face.

“We can compare the Brazil that he built and the Brazil that we built,” he said. “Tomorrow the campaign begins.”

A former metalworker and union leader who studied through the fifth grade, Da Silva led Brazil through its heyday in the first decade of the century. He was later convicted on corruption charges after leaving office and spent 580 days in prison. Last year, the Federal Supreme Court overturned those convictions, ruling that the judge in their cases was biased, and voters supported the man known simply as Lula.

The two men are the most prominent — and polarizing — politicians in the country. The Brazilian left sees Bolsonaro as a dangerous threat to the country’s democracy and its standing on the world stage, while the country’s conservatives see da Silva as an ex-convict who was central to a vast corruption scheme that helped corrupt the institutions of Brazil.

Da Silva, 76, is proposing to voters a plan to raise taxes on the rich in order to expand services for the poor, including an increase in the minimum wage and food and housing for more people.

Da Silva has campaigned with sweeping promises for a better future, including a commitment that Brazilians enjoy three meals a day. His rallies have leaned heavily on his image as the common man, with plenty of references to beer, cachaça and picaña, Brazil’s most famous cut of meat.

Bolsonaro, 67, has based his campaign on protecting Brazil’s conservative traditions from what he calls threats from leftist elites. His campaign slogan was “God, family, country and freedom”, and he promised to fight against things like the legalization of drugs, legalized abortion, transgender rights and restrictions on freedom of religion and freedom of expression. expression.

In addition, Bolsonaro wants to further increase access to firearms, repeating in his campaign speech that “armed people will never be enslaved.” One of his major achievements during his first term in office was the skyrocketing of gun ownership.

To address the wide gap in the polls, Bolsonaro recently expanded social welfare programs for poor families and pledged to continue those policies during his second term.

Bolsonaro has also said he wants to sell Brazil’s state-owned oil company, make it easier to mine in the Amazon rainforest and further reduce regulations on the industry. Many companies have welcomed Bolsonaro’s free-market approach, but it has led to increased environmental destruction.

The choice could have major consequences for the world’s largest rainforest. Although Bolsonaro has said he will crack down on environmental violations, he has cut funding and personnel from agencies tasked with enforcing environmental laws, while questioning statistics showing the destruction of the jungle during his first term.

Da Silva campaigned on a promise to eradicate illegal mining and logging, saying he would pressure farmers to use areas of the forest that had already been cleared.

Da Silva’s election would extend a series of victories for the left throughout Latin America, fueled by a wave of backlash against the ruling rulers in power. If he is elected, six of the seven largest countries in the region will have chosen leftist leaders since 2018.

Bolsonaro’s first term has been marked by turmoil, including run-ins with the courts, corruption scandals and a pandemic that has killed more people than anywhere except the United States. But what has alarmed many Brazilians and the international community have been his insinuations that he will not relinquish power if he does not win.

Last year, Bolsonaro told his supporters that there were three outcomes in the election: win, get killed, or get arrested. Then he added: “Tell the bastards that I will never be caught.”

Bolsonaro has been questioning the security of Brazil’s electronic voting system, despite the fact that there has been no evidence of widespread fraud in the system since Brazil began using it in the late 1990s.

Four days before the vote on Sunday, his political party published a documenta two-page report claiming, without evidence, that some government workers and contractors had the “absolute power to manipulate election results without leaving a trace.” Election officials responded that the claims “are false and dishonest” and “a clear attempt to disrupt and disrupt” the election.

A day later, in the final debate before Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro was asked if he would accept the election results. He did not answer.

Flávia Milhorance and Manuela Andreoni collaborated with reporting from Rio de Janeiro, and André Spigariol from Brasilia.

Flávia Milhorance and Manuela Andreoni collaborated with reporting from Rio de Janeiro, and André Spigariol from Brasilia.

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