UPDATE: Brazil Election Authority: Bolsonaro, Lula headed to runoff
Followers of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for president again, react to partial results after general election polls closed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the leftist Workers’ Party got the most votes in Brazil’s presidential election Sunday, but not enough to avoid a runoff vote against his far-right rival, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

With 97 per cent of the votes tallied, da Silva had 47.9 per cent support and Bolsonaro 43.6 per cent. Since neither candidate received more than 50 per cent of the valid votes, which exclude spoiled and blank ballots, a second round vote between them will be scheduled for October 30.

Brazil’s election authority announced late Sunday that a second round was a mathematical certainty.

The highly polarised election will determine whether the country returns a leftist to the helm of the world’s fourth-largest democracy or keeps the far-right leader in office for another four years.

Bolsonaro’s administration has been marked by incendiary speech, his testing of democratic institutions, his widely criticised handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in 15 years. But he has built a devoted base by defending conservative values and presenting himself as protecting the nation from leftist policies that he said infringe on personal liberties and produce economic turmoil.

Da Silva is credited with building an extensive social welfare programme during his 2003-2010 tenure that helped lift tens of millions into the middle class. He is also remembered for his administration’s involvement in vast corruption scandals and his own convictions, which were later annulled by the Supreme Court.

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