Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will return to power in Brazil for the third time after defeating incumbent head of State Jair Bolsonaro in the ballot by a very narrow margin, reflecting a huge division in the South American giant.
The 77-year-old icon of the Latin American left won by 50.9% of the votes against 49.1% for the 67-year-old former army captain, with almost 100% of the votes counted.
In his first reaction in Sao Paulo, Lula called for unity among Brazilians. Nobody is interested in a country divided and in a permanent state of war, he said.
Democracia. pic.twitter.com/zvnBbnQ3HG— Lula 13 (@LulaOficial) October 30, 2022
He also addressed the international community: Brazil is back and will stop being a pariah, he promised. He also assured that he will fight deforestation because the planet needs a living Amazon, AFP quoted.
Read also: Bolsonaro mum after defeat
The difference in votes between both candidates is two million in favor of Lula, for a total of 156 million voters.
It was the tightest victory for a second round in a Brazilian election, political scientist Leandro Consentino, of the Insper research institute in Sao Paulo, told AFP.
Brazil is going to have a major change of government, with half of the population unhappy with that, he summed up.
Rishi Sunak, United Kingdom's new PM, congratulated the former union leader on his Twitter account: I look forward to working together on the issues that matter to the UK and Brazil, from growing the global economy to protecting the planet’s natural resources and promoting democratic values, Sunak wrote.
Congratulations to @LulaOficial on his victory in Brazil’s election.— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) October 31, 2022
I look forward to working together on the issues that matter to the UK and Brazil, from growing the global economy to protecting the planet’s natural resources and promoting democratic values.
The burst of jubilation on Sao Paulo's emblematic Paulista Avenue, where thousands of Lula voters gathered, was immediate.
Brazil is getting back on the rails after four years of darkness, the population was feeling fear and going through a lot of problems, Larissa Meneses, 34, told AFP.
Bolsonaro has released mixed messages on whether he would recognize the results in case of defeat. On Friday he assured that he would: Whoever has the most votes wins.
At the Three Powers esplanade in Brasília, where hundreds of Bolsonaristas gathered to wait for the results, Ruth da Silva Barbosa, a 50-year-old teacher, assured that the Brazilian people are not going to swallow a false election like this one. Bolsonaro needs to make a decision now, she said.
- Everything will change -
The campaign accentuated the polarization in the country, divided between a conservative movement and those with a progressive vision, in line with Brazil's social diversity.
Lula represents many things, gender equality, freedom. Everything will change, said Carolina Freio, a 44-year-old civil servant in Rio's Copacabana neighborhood, in tears.
For us, Lula's return is very important, he tried to demarcate our lands, he had projects, shaman Saha da Silva, of the Sateré-Mawé indigenous group, who voted in his community of Iranduba, 80 km from Manaus, capital of the Amazon, told AFP.
Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, has the support of the poorest and those who resented Bolsonaro's policies and outbursts, such as young people, women and minorities.
He promised to fix the country still impacted by the pandemic crisis and its 688,000 deaths.
In his campaign he highlighted his socio-economic achievements, such as the emergence from poverty of more than 30 million Brazilians thanks to social initiatives financed by the commodities boom.
In this third term he will not have the same bonanza: although the economy shows signs of improvement, with growth, less inflation and more employment, it is far from the prosperity of the 2000s.
Nor will he have an easy time in Congress, where the conservatives are in the majority.
Lula returned to the political arena last year, after his convictions for corruption were overturned on procedural grounds. He was imprisoned for 19 months, especially in the Lava Jato scandal about a bribery network in the state-owned Petrobras.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, sought re-election defending traditional values and the recent improvement in economic data - slowing inflation and falling unemployment - while continuing to instill a nationalist discourse.
A message particularly appreciated by agribusiness and the evangelical population, which represents a third of the electorate and continues to expand throughout the country.
The new president will take the reins of Brazil on January 1.
Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, predicted a weak government for Lula: He will be under scrutiny from day one and will face a hostile Congress, he said.
Lula was immediately congratulated by U.S. President Joe Biden, who praised the free and fair elections.
So did the presidents of Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, France, Canada and Uruguay, among others. Lula. Joy, tweeted Chile's young president Gabriel Boric.
Lula. Alegría! https://t.co/ORsTb06D8y— Gabriel Boric Font (@gabrielboric) October 30, 2022
Based on AFP