Brazilian voters head to polls in second presidential run-off

Polls suggest tight race between far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Brazilian voters head to polls in second presidential run-off

Brazilians will head to the polls Sunday to cast ballots in the second presidential round run-off in what some have called the country's most important elections since its return to democracy.

In the first-round vote, many polls suggested a clear win for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who garnered 48% of the vote to incumbent Jair Bolsonaro’s 43%.

But neither candidate gained more than 50% of the vote and a second round automatically kicked in, underscoring how tight the race remained as Bolsonaro outperformed at the ballot box.

Lula, a former union leader, was a candidate during the 2018 presidential election until a corruption and money laundering conviction curtailed his political aspirations. He was sent to prison and Bolsonaro, a former army captain, won the presidency.

In 2019, Lula was released from prison after his convictions were overturned by the Supreme Court. That allowed him to run again for office.

The candidates finished campaigning Friday in the last presidential television debate. They exchanged barbs and accused each other of lying in a heated exchange, focusing largely on the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lula condemned Bolsonaro’s COVID-19 handling, with Bolsonaro denouncing corruption during Lula's tenure.

Lula argued that Brazil’s democracy was threatened by Bolsonaro, who alleged that Lula’s conviction charges were only annulled because of his connections.

During the debate, Bolsonaro pledged to increase the minimum wage while both strongly disputed the other's foreign policy record.

Amid Brazil's deep political polarization, the country is grappling with food insecurity and environmental concerns.

This year, Brazil returned to the United Nations Hunger Map after eight years, with 33 million citizens experiencing hunger.

Lula has pledged to tackle food insecurity and to "rebuild” Brazil.

Bolsonaro has tied inflation to the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, promising to uphold welfare programs for 20 million families.

The gun-friendly incumbent has pushed the "good" versus "evil" narrative in reference to the opposition while defending conservative Christian and family values and decrying drugs, abortion and "gender ideology.”

Amid environmental concerns, Lula has pledged to create an Indigenous Affairs Ministry, to stop illegal gold prospecting in the Amazon, and to rebuild the Ibama environmental agency.

Many environmentalists and defenders of Indigenous peoples and their land rights have denounced Bolsonaro's policies, insisting he has removed environmental protections in the Amazon, resulting in vast ecological destruction.

For more than one year, Bolsonaro has cast doubt about whether he will respect the election results, raising concerns about Brazil's electronic voting system without providing evidence.