West News Wire: Once more, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: Twenty years after first taking office, the leftist candidate in Brazil defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday in a remarkably close vote that represents a political about-face for the nation following four years of far-right politics.
In the runoff election, da Silva had 50.9% of the vote versus Bolsonaro’s 49.1% after more than 99% of the ballots had been counted. The election authority declared da Silva the winner mathematically speaking.
It is a startling turnabout for da Silva, 77, who was barred from voting in the 2018 election that propelled Bolsonaro, a supporter of conservative social ideals, to power due to his 2018 imprisonment due to a corruption scandal.
Da Silva is promising to govern beyond his leftist Workers’s Party. He wants to bring in centrists and even some leaning to the right who voted for him for the first time, and to restore the country’s more prosperous past. Yet he faces headwinds in a politically polarized society where economic growth is slowing and inflation is soaring.
His victory marks the first time since Brazil’s 1985 return to democracy that the sitting president has failed to win reelection. The highly polarized election in Latin America’s biggest economy extended a wave of recent leftist victories in the region, including Chile, Colombia and Argentina.
As Lula prepared to give a speech at a hotel in downtown Sao Paulo Sunday evening, Bolsonaro had yet to concede the election.
It was the country’s closest election in over three decades. Just over 2 million votes separated the two candidates with 99.5% of the vote counted. The previous closest race, in 2014, was decided by a margin of 3.46 million votes.
Da Silva’s inauguration is scheduled to take place on Jan. 1. He last served as president from 2003-2010.
Thomas Traumann, an independent political analyst, compared the results to Biden’s 2020 victory, saying da Silva is inheriting an extremely divided nation.
“The huge challenge that Lula has will be to pacify the country,” he said. “People are not only polarized on political matters, but also have different values, identity and opinions. What’s more, they don’t care what the other side’s values, identities and opinions are.”
Congratulations for Lula and Brazil began to pour in from around the world Sunday evening, including from President Joe Biden, who highlighted the country’s “free, fair, and credible elections.” The European Union also congratulated da Silva in a statement, commending the electoral authority for its effectiveness and transparency throughout the campaign.
Bolsonaro had been leading throughout the first half of the count and, as soon as da Silva overtook him, cars in the streets of downtown Sao Paulo began honking their horns. People in the streets of Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood could be heard shouting, “It turned!”
Da Silva’s headquarters in downtown Sao Paulo hotel only erupted once the final result was announced, underscoring the tension that was a hallmark of this race.
“Four years waiting for this,” said Gabriela Souto, one of the few supporters allowed in due to heavy security.
Outside Bolsonaro’s home in Rio de Janeiro, ground-zero for his support base, a woman atop a truck delivered a prayer over a speaker, then sang excitedly, trying to generate some energy. But supporters decked out in the green and yellow of the flag barely responded. Many perked up when the national anthem played, singing along loudly with hands over their hearts.