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Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were very close in Brazil’s runoff presidential election Sunday after 50.9% of the votes had been tallied. 

The election pits an incumbent vowing to safeguard conservative Christian values against a former president promising to return the country to a more prosperous past.

Bolsonaro is now trailing behind da Silva, according to the country’s election authority.

Polls closed at 5 pm (2000 GMT; 4 pm EDT) nationwide. Because the vote is conducted electronically, initial results are out quickly and final results are usually available a few hours later.

In the first round of voting, on Oct. 2, the first half of votes tallied showed Bolsonaro ahead, with da Silva pulling ahead later after votes from his strongholds were counted. Both men are well-known, divisive political figures who stir passion as much as loathing.

The vote will determine if the world’s fourth-largest democracy stays the same course of far-right politics or returns a leftist to the top job – and, in the latter case, whether Bolsonaro will accept defeat. There were multiple reports of what critics said appeared attempts to suppress turnout of likely da Silva voters.

Voting stations in the capital, Brasilia, were already crowded by morning and, at one of them, retired government worker Luiz Carlos Gomes said he would vote for da Silva

Tonight, voters in the world's fourth-largest democracy will today decide whether left-wing former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, will beat current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Pictured: Bolsonaro shortly after casting his vote in Rio de Janerio this morning

Tonight, voters in the world’s fourth-largest democracy will today decide whether left-wing former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, will beat current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Pictured: Bolsonaro shortly after casting his vote in Rio de Janerio this morning 

Former President of Brazil, and candidate for the 2022 election Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva speaking at a press conference shortly after casting his vote his morning in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, Brazil

Former President of Brazil, and candidate for the 2022 election Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva speaking at a press conference shortly after casting his vote his morning in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, Brazil

Concerns have now been raised that if Bolsonaro, dubbed ‘Trump of the Tropics’, were to lose, he may refuse to admit defeat.

If he fails to accept the election result, there are fears his armed supporters will take to the streets in protest.

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But on Friday night, he pledged to respect the election result, though possible accusations of rigging and backlash from his supporters loom large.

One concerned voter, on her way to a Lula rally in Sao Paolo, said she was concerned that Bolsonaro would ignore the electorate’s decision.

Marcia dos Santos, 27, said: ‘He is a dictator by nature, he and his family have attacked our state structures.

‘Everyone is worried. My mother does not want me to be out on the streets after the result. But we have got to come out, we need to come out to defend the vote.’

Her friend, 33-year-old teacher Antonia Luiz added: ‘We have had disaster after disaster with Bolsonaro. This is a chance to start putting the country right with Lula. He is a good man.’

The President previously came under fire for his disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left more than 680,000 dead in Brazil, as well as his vitriolic style and disdain for political correctness.

However, in recent months, falling unemployment figures, slowing inflation and a recovering economy have given him a boost.

Concerns have now been raised that if Bolsonaro, dubbed 'Trump of the Tropics', was to lose, he could refuse to admit defeat. If he refuses to accept the election result, there are fears his armed supporters will take to the streets in protest. Pictured: Brazilian's heading to the polling station this afternoon

Concerns have now been raised that if Bolsonaro, dubbed ‘Trump of the Tropics’, was to lose, he could refuse to admit defeat. If he refuses to accept the election result, there are fears his armed supporters will take to the streets in protest. Pictured: Brazilian’s heading to the polling station this afternoon

Mr Trump, who continues to falsely insist he beat President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, referred to the left-wing candidate as ‘a radical left lunatic who will quickly destroy your country’.

He had previously referred to the current Brazilian President as a ‘great friend’.

Mr Trump said: ‘Jair Bolsonaro and I have become great friends over the past few years for the people of the United States.

‘He is a wonderful man and has my complete and total endorsement.’

President Biden’s administration quickly stepped in to add that it will move quickly to recognise whichever leader is democratically elected.

The government urged Brazil to ensure a ‘free, fair, credible, transparent and peaceful’ election, adding that it would review relations with the South American country if anti-democratic methods are used.

Earlier this month, one of Bolsonaro’s sons, Eduardo, met Trump supporters in the US where he alleged that his father would be ‘the victim of the largest electoral fraud ever seen’ – words almost identical to Trumps after he lost the 2020 election.

During the first-round election on October 2, 77-year-old Lula narrowly won the first-round election, entering the finale as the slight favourite.

Brazilians vote in Runoff Elections in New York to elect from one of the two Presidential candidates Jair Bolsonaro and Lula da Silva

Brazilians vote in Runoff Elections in New York to elect from one of the two Presidential candidates Jair Bolsonaro and Lula da Silva

Brazilians smile in New York as they vote in Runoff Elections to elect from one of the two Presidential candidates

Brazilians smile in New York as they vote in Runoff Elections to elect from one of the two Presidential candidates

A Lula supporter leaves his phone with election officials at a polling station before casting their vote in the ballot in Florida. Florida has the second largest number of Brazilians voting in the United States

A Lula supporter leaves his phone with election officials at a polling station before casting their vote in the ballot in Florida. Florida has the second largest number of Brazilians voting in the United States

A voter in the polling station in New York, where Brazilians take part in Runoff elections for the presidential candidates

A voter in the polling station in New York, where Brazilians take part in Runoff elections for the presidential candidates 

A Brazilian voter in the polling station in New York, where nationals can take part in Runoff elections for the presidential candidates

A Brazilian voter in the polling station in New York, where nationals can take part in Runoff elections for the presidential candidates

Brazilians have been voting in New York during Runoff elections for the presidential candidates

Brazilians have been voting in New York during Runoff elections for the presidential candidates

The final poll from Datafolha institute on Saturday revealed that 52 per cent of voters were in favour of the left-wing candidate, with 48 per cent supporting the current leader. But when Bolsonaro was last elected, he performed better than any predictions.

President Bolsonaro was seen wearing a yellow and green t-shirt casting his vote in Rio de Janeiro minutes after the polls opened while Lula voted in his hometown of São Bernardo do Campo in São Paulo state.

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Greeting supporters outside the polling station, Bolsonaro said: ‘God willing, we’ll be victorious later today. Or even better, Brazil will be victorious.’

The left-wing candidate, however, said he was ‘confident in the victory of democracy’ and that he would seek to ‘restore peace’ in the divided nation if elected.

Supporters of Brazil's former President Lula and candidate of the left Workers Party enjoy a beer at a bar in downtown Sao Paulo on election day

Supporters of Brazil’s former President Lula and candidate of the left Workers Party enjoy a beer at a bar in downtown Sao Paulo on election day

Brazilians still remain split over which man is best to lead their country as the fraught election closes.

Eliane de Oliveira, a 61-year-old lawyer who voted in Rio, said: ‘I think this has been the best government Brazil has ever had.’

She added that she was happy to have a Government that ‘was not corrupt’ alluding to the corruption scandal surrounding Lula.

The former president was the country’s most popular leader when he left office in 2011, after lifting millions out of poverty with social programmes.

Supporters of Brazil's President Bolsonaro cheer on the leader on election day in Brazil's capital city Brasilia

Supporters of Brazil’s President Bolsonaro cheer on the leader on election day in Brazil’s capital city Brasilia 

But he then became mired in a massive corruption scandal and was jailed for 18 months, before his convictions were thrown out last year. The Supreme Court found the lead judge was biased, but Lula was not exonerated.

If he wins, he faces a hostile Congress dominated by Bolsonaro lawmakers and allies.

Others are happy to support the former leader. One P.E. teacher, Gustavo Souza, voted for Lula in ‘the hope of improving people’s lives’.

Like many, he said he was ‘scared’ about the outcome and had fears that Bolsonaro would not accept the result.

The teacher added: ‘People have become so radical. They will need some maturity… or it will turn into the third or fourth world war.’

Brazil’s 156 million voters on the electoral ballot will cast their vote tonight until 8pm UK time. The result of the election is expected to follow within a matter of hours.

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