Outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro, saying he is sure of his victory, was among the first of 152 million voters to vote on Sunday for the presidential election in Brazil, which opposes him in a very tight duel to the ex-head of Left-wing state Lula.
“God willing we will win tonight,” said Jair Bolsonaro after voting shortly after the opening of offices at 8 a.m. (11 a.m. GMT) in Rio de Janeiro, for this second round of which Lula is the favorite.
“Or better yet, Brazil will be victorious tonight,” added the far-right president, smiling and wearing a yellow and green t-shirt in the colors of the Brazilian flag beloved by Bolsonarians.
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.
One of the first voters to vote in Copacabana, a tourist district of Rio, Marcio Britto, a 52-year-old unemployed man, hopes to AFP that this election “will make it possible to improve the situation of the Brazilian people a little”, especially ” health, education and security”.
In Sao Paulo, Marcelo Silveira Curi, a 35-year-old psychologist, is preparing to vote for Lula. “Lula is not the ideal candidate but he is the one who opposes the government,” he said, referring to “a lot of economic and social setbacks” under Bolsonaro.
– “On the edge of the abyss” –
For Nadia Faraj, a 61-year-old unemployed graduate, who votes in the capital Brasilia, “this is a defining moment for the country”. “Brazil is on the brink,” she said, “we spent years rebuilding the country. We need Bolsonaro.”
If the polls have been predicting for months a third four-year term for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 77, after those of 2003-2010, Jair Bolsonaro, 67, can still believe it.
According to the latest Datafolha survey on Saturday evening, the gap narrowed, with Lula winning 52%/48%. The margin of error is +/- 2 points and the polls had seriously underestimated Bolsonaro’s score in the 1st round (43% against 48% for Lula).
“It’s a lot tighter than anyone would have thought,” Brian Winter, editor of Americas Quarterly, told AFP, “it’s going to be a confusing election.”
Will Bolsonaro accept the result if he is the first president running for a second term not to be re-elected since the return to democracy in 1985?
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.
– “Liar” –
“Bolsonaro will question the result,” said Rogerio Dultra dos Santos of the Federal University of Fluminense.
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.
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 and emphasizes that democratic institutions are strong.
Lula, a former steelworker with an extraordinary destiny, said he hoped Bolsonaro “will recognize the result” if he loses.
The campaign was very tough. Bolsonaro insulted Lula: “thief”, “ex-prisoner”, “alcoholic” or “national disgrace”. The latter returned the blows: “pedophile”, “cannibal”, “genocidal” or “little dictator”.
Accusing each other of lying, Bolsonaro and, to a lesser extent Lula, fueled the disinformation machine, which worked like never before in Brazil.
– Hunt for abstainers –
Social networks – the sole source of information for the majority of the 170 million Brazilian users – have conveyed an unprecedented mass of false information.
With this dirty campaign, the real concerns of the population have been neglected: inflation, unemployment, poverty or hunger, from which 33 million Brazilians suffer.
The major issue between the two rounds was the hunt for the 32 million abstainers from the 1st round (21%). Lula won only six million votes in advance on October 2.
Despite a mandate enamelled by serious crises including that of the Covid, Jair Bolsonaro retains a base of irreducible supporters and has been able to impose his political agenda in the face of a barely audible left and a traditional right which has foundered.
If elected, Lula, a key figure in Brazilian politics for four decades, will make a spectacular comeback after experiencing disgrace in prison (2018-2019) and then the cancellation of his convictions for corruption.
The offices will close at 5 p.m. (8 p.m. GMT) and the name of the president of the huge country with 215 million inhabitants will be known within two or three hours.