This Might Be It for Brazil's Controversial Leader

Voting begins, with challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva expected to prevail over Jair Bolsonaro
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2022 9:31 AM CDT
In Brazil, a High-Stakes Election Begins
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for another term, arrives to a polling station to vote in the general elections in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022.   (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Brazilians were voting on Sunday in a highly polarized election that could determine if the country returns a leftist to the helm of the world’s fourth-largest democracy or keeps the far-right incumbent in office for another four years. The race pits incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro against his political nemesis, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. There are nine other candidates, but their support pales to that for Bolsonaro and da Silva, per the AP. Recent polls have given da Silva a commanding lead—the last Datafolha survey published Saturday found that 50% of respondents said they would vote for da Silva, against 36% for Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro’s administration has been marked by incendiary speech, his testing of democratic institutions, his widely criticized handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the worst deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in 15 years. A slow economic recovery has yet to reach the poor, with 33 million Brazilians going hungry despite higher welfare payments. Like several of its Latin American neighbors coping with high inflation and a vast number of people excluded from formal employment, Brazil is considering a shift to the political left. There is a chance da Silva could win in the first round, without need for a run-off on Oct. 30. For that to happen, he would need more than 50% of votes.

An outright win would sharpen focus on the president’s reaction to the count given he has repeatedly questioned the reliability not just of opinion polls, but also of the electronic voting machines. Analysts fear he has laid the groundwork to reject results. At one point, Bolsonaro claimed to possess evidence of fraud, but never presented any, even after the electoral authority set a deadline to do so. He said as recently as Sept. 18 that if he doesn’t win in the first round, something must be “abnormal.” The two frontrunners have key bases of support: evangelicals and white men for Bolsonaro; and women, minorities, and the poor for da Silva.

(Read more Jair Bolsonaro stories.)

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