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Brazil Presidential Battle Enters Home Stretch with Leftist Rival Lula in the Lead

AFP

Last Updated: September 30, 2022, 07:45 IST

Rio de Janeiro

Far-right Bolsonaro, 67, is seeking reelection after a controversial first term, but lags behind ex-president Lula, 76, who left office in 2010. (Reuters Photo)

Far-right Bolsonaro, 67, is seeking reelection after a controversial first term, but lags behind ex-president Lula, 76, who left office in 2010. (Reuters Photo)

The confrontation will happen in a late-night, live broadcast on TV Globo just hours after a fresh opinion poll signaled a persistent strong lead for Lula ahead of Sunday's first election round.

Brazil’s deeply polarized election campaign entered the home stretch Thursday with incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva preparing to square off in what could be a bellicose final debate.

The confrontation will happen in a late-night, live broadcast on TV Globo just hours after a fresh opinion poll signaled a persistent strong lead for Lula ahead of Sunday’s first election round.

Far-right Bolsonaro, 67, is seeking reelection after a controversial first term, but lags behind ex-president Lula, 76, who left office in 2010 with an unprecedented 87-percent approval rating.

On Thursday, a poll by Datafolha showed Lula maintaining a 14-point lead over Bolsonaro with the stated support of 50 percent of respondents who said they intended to cast a valid ballot and not a blank or spoiled one.

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To avoid a runoff round on October 30 and win outright on Sunday, a candidate must garner 50 percent of valid votes, plus one.

Bolsonaro’s stated support remained in a distant second place with 36 percent, Datafolha found.

The incumbent is counting on his evangelical and business-centric support base, while Lula — who served two consecutive terms from 2003 — is appealing to poor, minority and anti-Bolsonaro voters.

Thursday’s TV Globo debate, traditionally the most-watched pre-electoral program in Brazil, will be the last chance for candidates to sway undecided voters, who, polls suggest, number just 13 percent of the electorate.

‘Can change the picture’

Bolsonaro’s camp expect him to adopt an aggressive stance towards Lula in Thursday’s final debate, focusing on the corruption scandals that have damaged the leftist Worker’s Party, and pressing home his conservative values on issues of religion and abortion.

The pair will be joined on stage by five other candidates with no statistical shot at making it to the final two.

“This is the debate that can change the picture," a Bolsonaro campaign member told AFP on condition of anonymity.

After the first debate, a month ago, Lula was criticized for seemingly evading the corruption question. His campaign was further harmed by not taking part in another debate, last Saturday, between Bolsonaro and other candidates.

Lula has urged Brazilians loyal to any of the minority candidates — all with less than 10 percent of voter intention — to rather cast a “useful" vote for him, and against Bolsonaro.

The president got a celebrity boost Thursday for his re-election bid from football superstar Neymar, who posted a video on TikTok of himself dancing to a pro-Bolsonaro campaign song.

Grinning, the Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil striker, arguably Brazil’s most famous celebrity, flashed the number 22 — Bolsonaro’s candidate number — with his fingers as he rocked out to the electronic dance jingle.

The broadcast election campaign in Brazil ends at midnight on Thursday, although in-person events and distribution of election material will be allowed until Saturday night.

Datafolha will bring out another, final poll on Saturday, the eve of the first round, that could indicate whether Thursday’s debate has swayed any voters.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly rejected the accuracy of polls and hinted he would challenge any result in which Lula is the winner, saying last weekend: “We are the majority. We will win in the first round."

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first published:September 30, 2022, 07:29 IST
last updated:September 30, 2022, 07:45 IST