This election fraught with uncertainty is decisive for the future of the young democracy in Brazil, the first power in very fractured Latin America.
The clash at the top between sworn enemies Jair Bolsonaro, 67, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 76, relegated the other nine candidates to the rank of extras.
Former President Lula (2003-2010) was still the big favorite in the latest Datafolha poll on Saturday evening, with 50% of valid votes against 36% for Bolsonaro.
“The question is whether there will be a second round or not, and that is impossible to predict,” Adriano Laureno, analyst at Prospectiva consultants, told AFP.
Lula is competing for his 6th presidential election
A victory for Lula, who has marked Brazilian political life for half a century and is competing for his 6th presidential election, would mark an unexpected comeback four years after his controversial imprisonment on suspicion of corruption.
The latest presidential debate on Thursday illustrated the degree of hatred between the two frontrunners who tore each other off, accusing each other of being “liar” or “corrupt”.
The campaign, carried out in bulletproof vests by the candidates, was also tense. It carried a dump of personal attacks, delivered few projects for Brazil, and took place in a poisonous climate.
Thus for many Brazilians, the election of Lula in the first round would allow“end it” and to escape another four weeks of campaigning at loggerheads until a second round on October 30.
Abstention on Sunday could further penalize Lula. A runoff could allow Bolsonaro, analysts say, to galvanize his troops and find new momentum.
But hoping for a victory in the first round, Lula’s team campaigned for the “useful vote”, eyeing the side of the voters of Ciro Gomes (center left), 4th in the polls with 5% of voting intentions.
Jair Bolsonaro claimed he would be “unnatural” that he does not get at least 60% of the vote on Sunday and rejects the polls “liars”.
“I think he will contest the result if he loses” said Mr. Laureno, “but that doesn’t mean he’s going to succeed. The international community will quickly recognize the result.”
Towards a Brazilian remake of the assault on the Capitol in the event of defeat?
The ex-army captain has launched countless attacks on the reliability of electronic ballot boxes, raising the threat of a coup. The fear of a Brazilian remake of the assault on the Capitol in Washington in 2021 after the defeat of Donald Trump is on everyone’s mind.
The army gave no sign of agitation and the United States indicated that it would “to follow closely” the election.
More than 500,000 members of the security forces must provide security and dozens of foreign observers monitor the voting process, from 8:00 a.m. (11:00 a.m. GMT) to 5:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. GMT).
Lula must vote in the morning in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, and Bolsonaro in Rio, before following the results in Brasilia (22-23H GMT).
“Democracy versus Fascism”
Lula, the leader of the Workers’ Party (PT), has brought together a vast coalition of ten parties going as far as the center right of his running mate, the former governor of Sao Paulo Geraldo Alckmin, chosen to reassure economic circles.
It has the majority vote of women, young people and the underprivileged classes.
Bolsonaro is running under the label of the small Liberal Party (PL) and enjoys the enthusiastic support of evangelicals, the agribusiness and pro-gun lobby, and the more reserved support of employers.
The majority of Brazilians expect their president to fight against hunger from which 30 million of them suffer, inflation and unemployment which have reinforced precariousness and corruption.
Lula, who had lifted 30 million Brazilians out of poverty, promised meat for everyone and “democracy against fascism”. But, for many, it embodies irremediably corruption.
Bolsonaro defends traditional values – God, country, family. But his management deemed catastrophic of the Covid-19 (685,000 dead) could cost him dearly, as well as the crises that marked his mandate.
Brazilians also elect Sunday their 513 federal deputies, the governors of the 27 states and the deputies of the state assemblies. Like the president, all serve four-year terms. A third of the 81 Senate seats will also be renewed, but for eight years.