Brazil election goes to run-off

STORY: Brazil's presidential election is headed for a run-off vote after a much tighter result than expected dashed hopes of a quick resolution to a deeply polarized election.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s surprising strength in the first round on Sunday spoiled leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s hopes of winning outright. Lula was ahead with 48.4% versus 43.3% for Bolsonaro.

As neither got a majority of support, the race continues for a run-off vote on October 30th.

Incumbent President Bolsonaro warned voters that "a change could be worse" in Brazil.

"There is a feeling among people that their lives are economically worse off. Now we are going to put more emphasis on showing these people that there has been a fall but that the economy is recovering well and it will be felt positively eventually. And to show that sometimes it (change) is not for the best. You can change, for the best or for the worst."

Rival Lula da Silva said on Sunday he’s ready for a run-off vote.

"To the disgrace of some, I have 30 more days to campaign. I love campaigning, I love going out on the street, I love rallying, I love getting on a truck, I love discussing with Brazilian society."

“I’ve never won an election in the first round. I’ve won all of them in the second round. All of them. Here in the second round what’s important is the chance to think thoroughly on what you propose for society. To build a network of alliances and supporters before winning, for you to show to the people what will happen and who will win.”

Several polls had shown the Lula - who was president from 2003 to 2010 - was leading the far-right Bolsonaro by up to 15 percentage points ahead of Sunday's vote.

Although Lula left his presidency with a record popularity - he is now disliked by many Brazilians after he was convicted of accepting bribes and jailed during the last election.

His conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court, allowing him to run again for president this year.

Incumbent Bolsonaro rode a backlash against Lula's Workers Party to victory in 2018, uniting parts of Brazil's right, from evangelical Christians to farming interests and pro-gun advocates.

He has ditched environmental and indigenous protections to the delight of commercial farmers and wildcat miners while at the same time appealing to social conservatives with an anti-gay and anti-abortion agenda.

His popularity has suffered since the coronavirus pandemic, which he called a "little flu" before COVID-19 killed nearly a whopping 700,000 Brazilians.

Corruption scandals also forced ministers out of his government, yet Sunday's vote shows his support is far from collapsing.