SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva narrowly defeated President Jair Bolsonaro in a run-off, but the far-right incumbent did not concede defeat on Sunday night, raising fears he might contest the result. .
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) declared Lula the next president, with 50.9% of the vote against Bolsonaro’s 49.1%. Lula, 77, is scheduled to be inaugurated on January 1.
It was a stunning comeback for the former leftist president and a severe blow to Bolsonaro, the first Brazilian to lose the presidential election.
“So far, Bolsonaro has not called me to acknowledge my victory, and I don’t know if he will call or admit my victory,” Lula told tens of thousands of jubilant fans who celebrated his victory on Paulista Avenue in São Paulo.
Contrasting with Bolsonaro’s silence, congratulations poured in to Lula from foreign leaders, including US President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.
A source in Bolsonaro’s campaign told Reuters the president would not make public statements until Monday. Bolsonaro’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Last year Bolsonaro publicly discussed his refusal to accept the results of the vote, and made unsubstantiated allegations that Brazil’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to fraud.
“I promise, I will be the biggest dissident Lula ever imagined,” Representative Carla Zampelli, a close ally of Bolsonaro, wrote on Twitter, in apparent reference to the results.
Financial markets may have a volatile week, as investors gauge speculation about Lula’s government and the risk that Bolsonaro will question the results.
The vote was a rebuke to the far-right populist Bolsonaro, who emerged from the back benches of Congress to form a new conservative coalition but lost support as Brazil recorded one of the worst death tolls from the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden congratulated Lula on winning “a free, fair, and credible election,” joining the chorus of praise from European and Latin American leaders.
International election observers said Sunday’s election was conducted efficiently. One observer told Reuters that the military auditors did not find any flaws in the integrity tests they conducted in the voting system.
Truck drivers believed to be Bolsonaro supporters blocked a highway on Sunday at four places in the state of Mato Grosso, a major grain producer, according to the highway operator.
In one of the videos circulating online, a man said truck drivers were planning to block major highways, calling for a military coup to prevent Lula from taking office.
pink tide rising
Lula’s victory cements a new “pink tide” in Latin America, following historic leftist victories in Colombia and Chile elections, echoing the regional political shift two decades ago that brought Lula onto the world stage.
He has vowed to return to the state-led economic growth and social policies that helped lift millions out of poverty during two terms as president from 2003 to 2010. He has also promised to fight the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, now at a 15-year high, and make Brazil a leader in talks global climate.
“That was four years of hate and science denial,” Ana Valeria Doria, 60, a doctor in Rio de Janeiro celebrated with a drink. “It wouldn’t be easy for Lola to run the band in this country. But for now, it’s pure happiness.” Born into poverty, a former union leader organized strikes against the Brazilian military government in the 1970s. His two-term presidency was marked by a commodity-driven economic boom and he left office with record popularity.
But his Labor Party later suffered a deep recession and a record-breaking corruption scandal that saw him imprisoned for 19 months on bribery charges, which the Supreme Court overturned last year.
Additional reporting by Anthony Buddle and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia, Brian Ellsworth and Lisandra Paraguaso in Sao Paulo Editing by Brad Hines, Lincoln Fest and Nick McPhee
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