The first votes counted give a slight advantage to the current president over the leftist leader
In a climate of calm and normality, which contrasted with the tense and turbulent campaign of recent weeks, Brazil went to the polls this Sunday to elect a president. On a day in which 156.4 million voters were summoned to exercise their right to vote, the long queues were the dominant tone of an appointment that made a high turnout figure last night. At the close of the polling stations, at 5:00 p.m. local time, all forecasts pointed to a victory for the former leftist president and leader of the Workers’ Party (PT), Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, against his main rival, the current president and Liberal Party member Jair Bolsonaro. However, the first votes counted offered a tight battle between the two candidates.
The first results of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), released when 1.62% of the census had been scrutinized, placed Bolsonaro with a seven-point advantage over the leftist leader. Specifically, the president garnered 48.56% of the support compared to 41.54% for Lula.
The latest poll, issued by the Datafolha Institute, instead gave the 76-year-old trade union leader 50% of the vote, a percentage in any case insufficient to avoid a new electoral battle on October 30 with the second-most voted. That same survey placed Bolsonaro, with 36% of the support, in second position in the race for the head of state, although the far-right leader said he was convinced that he would achieve re-election this Sunday. The rest of the votes would be shared equally between Simone Tebet, from the Citizen Democratic Movement, and Ciro Games, from the Democratic Labor Party.
Shortly after the polling stations opened at 8:00 local time, the two main candidates went to vote at their respective polling stations. Bolsonaro did it dressed in a yellow and green shirt of the Brazilian team in the Vila Militar neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. “Fair elections must be respected. May the best win,” said the former Army captain after assuring that he would prevail in the first round “with 60%” of the votes. However, he remained silent when asked if he would accept the results if he was defeated.
The non-recognition of the verdict of the polls by the president is precisely one of the great fears that hover over these elections. Not in vain, in recent months, Bolsonaro has dedicated himself to attacking the reliability of electronic voting without evidence, while he has appealed to the Army on numerous occasions and has questioned the Supreme Court. All this has led many observers to warn of a possible outbreak of violence by his followers, as occurred with the seizure of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, after the defeat of his ally Donald Trump.
Faced with the latent threat of altercations, Lula opted to appeal for peace by voting in Sao Bernardo do Campo, the same region of Sao Paulo where he was forged as a union leader in the 1970s. The veteran politician who presided over the country for two terms between 2003 and 2010 expressed his wish that Brazil “return to normality.” “We need to recover the right to be happy. We don’t want any more hate,” he said.
“These are the most important elections for me,” acknowledged the PT leader, recalling that in the previous elections held in 2018 he could not vote because he was in prison. “Four years later, I am voting in recognition of my total freedom and the possibility of becoming president of this country again and for it to return to normality,” added the leftist leader. In any case, the 580 days he was imprisoned for two corruption convictions that were later annulled by the Supreme Court have been the great stain that he has not been able to erase on his campaign and the main weapon used against him by Bolsonaro.
A group of voters, mostly young, wait to cast their vote /
Popularity in free fall
Despite the president’s attempts to discredit his biggest rival, he has been unable to reverse his decline in popularity. He has been, above all, highly questioned for his management of the pandemic, which left 686,000 dead. But record inflation rates, high debt, inequality and unemployment have also weighed against it.
Although the growth forecast for this year is 2.7%, the economy will be the big poisoned apple. This is so because the stimuli and fiscal benefits applied by the Bolsonaro government will compromise the future of the country in the coming years with an indebtedness equivalent to 77.6% of GDP.
The other big issue is the future of the Amazon. Environmental groups warn of the danger of a new Bolsonaro mandate since he has accelerated the destruction of the world’s main tropical forest by cutting the budget for nature management and protection and closing environmental defense institutions. The deforestation of public lands in what is considered the ‘lung of the planet’ has also grown by an average of 56.6% per year during his presidency, while greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 9.5%. It had been three decades since there had been such a level of destruction.
Lula, by contrast, has promised to end illegal mining and deforestation. However, when he was in power he was criticized for having promoted the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon, which displaced 40,000 people and dried up sections of a river on which the communities in the area depended.
Voters are required to vote if they do not want to be fined
Unlike other elections, for the first time all of Brazil will have a unified time to vote between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The cities of different zones will have to adapt to the time of the capital. The results will begin to be known as of five in the afternoon (23.oo hours in Spain). A total of 577,125 teams of six different models of electronic ballot boxes are ready to receive voters.
Voting in Brazil is compulsory for citizens between the ages of 18 and 69, and optional for illiterate people, young people between 16 and 17 and people over 70. Whoever does not comply with their duty to vote or does not present a supporting document compatible with the legislation is subject to sanctions. Each unjustified absence at the polls generates a debt with the Electoral Justice and as long as the situation is not regularized – by paying the fine or obtaining an exemption from it – the voter is subject to a series of important restrictions.
Thus, you will not be able to receive salaries, remuneration, wages or benefits from public functions. You will also not be able to participate in public tenders. You will not be able to obtain loans from municipalities, federal and state savings banks, Social Security institutions and funds, or from any credit institution that is subsidized by the Government.
Collectors and hunters are prohibited from carrying weapons. It is not allowed to enter the voting booth with a mobile phone and each State decides whether to prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
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