Brazil’s bitterly divisive presidential election will go to a runoff on October 30, electoral authorities said Sunday, as incumbent Jair Bolsonaro beat expectations to finish a relatively close second to front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula, the veteran leftist seeking a presidential comeback, had 47.9 percent of the vote to 43.7 percent for the far-right president with 97.2 percent of polling stations reporting, according to official results from the Superior Electoral Tribunal, which said on its website a second round was now “mathematically defined."
Leftist challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pulled ahead of far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro with around 70 percent of the votes counted Sunday in Brazil’s presidential election, but a runoff looked likely.
Underperforming expectations based on pre-election opinion polls, Lula had 46 percent of the vote to 45.3 percent for Bolsonaro, with 73.3 percent of polling stations reporting, according to official results.
Lula, long considered the heavy favorite, actually started the night trailing Bolsonaro, whose bastions in the north and southeast were quicker to report results than Lula’s stronghold in the northeast.
He pulled ahead with around 70 percent of polling stations reporting — sparking ecstatic cheers at street parties where supporters decked out in the red of his Workers’ Party had gathered to watch the results.
But the result looked surprisingly strong for Bolsonaro — and disappointing for Lula.
Leading polling firm Datafolha had given the charismatic but tarnished ex-president (2003-2010) 50 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Bolsonaro in a poll published on the eve of the election.
That had appeared to put the veteran leftist within reach of a victory in the first round.
Instead, the Latin American giant now looks headed for a runoff on October 30, extending what has already been a bitterly divisive campaign.
Bolsonaro’s camp was quick to celebrate the early results.
“Bolsonaro leading out of the gate. I called it: Datafolha got it wrong, again," Bolsonaro’s congressman son Eduardo wrote on Twitter.
The far-right also looked set for strong showings in a series of key state and federal races, with ex-Bolsonaro cabinet ministers winning Congressional seats and leading in the key governor’s race in Sao Paulo.
On Lula’s side, supporters were tense, but not giving up hope.
“Everyone’s nervous with the early results. But the states where the count is most advanced are the most pro-Bolsonaro. We’re going to turn it around," prominent indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara, a congressional candidate, said at the Sao Paulo hotel where Lula’s camp was gathered.
Bolsonaro and his inner circle were meanwhile watching the results at the presidential residence in Brasilia.