Lula was elected president of Brazil by a very narrow margin on Sunday ahead of Jair Bolsonaro, a remarkable comeback for the icon of the left who left power 12 years ago.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva obtained 50.84% of the vote, against 49.16% for the far-right outgoing president, with the results of 99% of the polling stations.
This is the tightest gap between two presidential finalists since the return to democracy after the military dictatorship (1964-1985).
The margin is much narrower than predicted by the polls, which had already underestimated Jair Bolsonaro’s score before the first round.
The 77-year-old former steelworker with a destiny worthy of a Hollywood film, who experienced hunger in his native Pernambuco (north-east), will return to the top of the state on January 1.
“It’s the most important day of my life,” he said in the morning when voting.
Lula had achieved record popularity after his first two terms (2003-2010), but then fell from grace, going through prison, after corruption convictions finally overturned for formal defects.
After this narrow victory, Lula will have to deal with a Parliament that leans clearly to the right and will have to forge alliances to govern.
Jair Bolsonaro is the first president running for a second term not to be re-elected since the return to democracy in 1985.
His reaction is eagerly awaited: after launching incessant attacks against the “fraudulent” system of electronic ballot boxes, he said on Friday: “Whoever has the most votes wins. It’s democracy” – without convincing.
When he voted in the morning, Lula hoped that “the government (Bolsonaro) will be civilized and will understand that a healthy transition is necessary”.
“I hope that if I win the election, he will have a moment of wisdom and call me to acknowledge the result,” Lula said last Monday.
Many fear a Brazilian replica of the assault on Capitol Hill after the defeat of Donald Trump which could target, for example, the Supreme Court so often vilified by Bolsonaro.
“Bolsonaro will question the result,” said Rogerio Dultra dos Santos, of the Federal University of Fluminense, on the eve of the election.
The ex-captain can count on “the support of his most radicalized voters (…) and cause trouble”, according to the analyst, who however does not see the armed forces venturing into a coup de force and underlines that democratic institutions are strong.
Near Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach, Gustavo Souza, a physical education teacher who voted for Lula, got ‘a little scared’ about possible unrest ‘People have become so radical’ , he breathes.
The campaign between the two men who oppose everything took place in a brutal and ultra-polarized climate which saw them insult each other copiously while social networks carried torrents of misinformation.
“Thief”, “ex-prisoner”, “alcoholic” or “national disgrace”, Bolsonaro said of Lula. The latter returned the blows: “paedophile”, “cannibal”, “genocidal” or “little dictator”.
No violent incident has marred the vote of some 156 million Brazilians called to the polls on Sunday.
But this second round was marked by a lively controversy around the filtering barriers of the Federal Road Police (PRF) which retained voters, in particular, from the poor regions of the northeast, electoral stronghold of Lula.
On social networks, many videos showed monster traffic jams or buses carrying voters stuck in roadblocks.
But Alexandre de Moraes, president of the Superior Electoral Court, however put these problems into perspective, saying at a press conference that, despite delays, “no coach turned back and all the voters were able to vote”.
Twelve governors of Brazilian states were also elected on Sunday, including the Bolsonarist Tarcisio de Freitas in the state of Sao Paulo, the most populous and richest in Brazil.