Latin America

Brazil tallies votes in Lula-Bolsonaro presidential race

Key Points
  • Brazilians are voting on Sunday in the first round of their country's most polarized election in decades.
  • Leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is favored to beat right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
Supporters of Brazil's presidential candidate for the leftist Workers Party (PT) and former President (2003-2010), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, show the "L" symbol elusive to Lula presidential campaign before a rally in Salvador, Bahia state, Brazil, on September 30, 2022.
Arisson Marinho | Afp | Getty Images

Brazil's electoral authorities began counting votes on Sunday in the first round of the country's most polarized election in decades, with leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva favored to beat right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

With only 0.2% of electronic voting machines counted, Lula and Bolsonaro both had about 44% of votes, the national electoral authority said on its website.

There were reports of long lines at voting stations that closed at 5 p.m (2000 GMT) as many Brazilians turned out to vote in a tense election, punctuated by isolated violence and fears over a sharp uptick in gun ownership under Bolsonaro.

Military police in Sao Paulo said a man entered a voting station and fired at two police officers who were receiving medical attention.

Most opinion polls have shown Lula with a 10-15 percentage point lead, but Bolsonaro has signaled he may refuse to accept defeat, stoking fears of institutional crisis. If Lula wins over 50% of valid votes, which several pollsters show within reach, he would clinch an outright victory, foregoing a run-off.

In Brasilia, Ricardo Almeida, 45, voted wearing the yellow-and-green colors of Brazil's flag. "I voted for (Bolsonaro) because of his Christian faith, his defense of family values and his conservative politics," he said.

Bolsonaro says he's pro-business, so why is Brazil's economy in the dumps?
Bolsonaro says he's pro-business, so why is Brazil's economy in the dumps?

Wearing a "Get Out Bozo" shirt, Rio de Janeiro resident Anna Luisa, 70, said she was voting for Lula for the first time.

"I have to take down Bolsonaro," she said, citing his "homophobia" and his stance over Brazil's 1964-85 military dictatorship, which Bolsonaro has long supported.

Although he ended his 2003-2010 government with record popularity, Lula is now loathed by many Brazilians after he was convicted of accepting bribes. The leftist, who was president from 2003 to 2010, was jailed during the last election. But his conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court, allowing him to face his rival Bolsonaro this year.

Voting in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Lula acknowledged the dramatic turnaround in his fortunes after a prosecution that he calls politically motivated.

"It's an important day for me," he said. "Four years ago I couldn't vote because I was the victim of a lie ... I want to try to help my country to return to normal."

Bolsonaro voted in Rio, and said he expected to win the election in Sunday's first round, despite his poor showing in surveys. The former army captain does not trust the pollsters, saying their results do not correspond with the support at his campaign events.

If no candidate wins over half of the votes, excluding blank and spoiled ballots, the top two go to an Oct. 30 run-off.