Brazilian President Bolsonaro Reaches Runoff In Reelection Bid

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro far exceeded the expectations set by political polls in his bid for reelection Sunday. He will now face former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a runoff election, as neither of them reached the 50% threshold to win outright but finished first and second.

Lula is a convicted felon and far-left socialist and has been active in presidential politics for years before and since his stint as leader of the largest South American nation. It is still believed he would have likely won the 2018 election if he had not been in prison at the time.

Lula was sentenced to around 25 years in prison after using public money to buy himself luxury beachfront property during his time as president. Brazil’s highest court reversed his convictions last year, freeing him from incarceration and allowing him to run for president once again.

Bolsonaro ended up winning the 2018 election. A staunch conservative, he defeated the socialist candidate substituted for Lula, Fernando Haddad. He won despite almost perishing after a knife attack just a month before the election. He has suffered continuing medical problems stemming from the stabbing.

Bolsonaro has campaigned this year on a platform of fighting public corruption and resisting all COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on civil liberties.

By Monday morning, vote totals indicated Lula had taken 48.3% of the national vote, compared to Bolsonaro’s 43.3%. Third-party candidates divided the rest, leaving neither of the top two contenders with a majority. Under Brazilian law, Lula and Bolsonaro will now face off in a head-to-head runoff scheduled for October 30.

Lula had been projected to take around 50% of the vote, but Bolsonaro was expected to take a much smaller share than he ended up with. That indicates that many voters who had been thought likely to vote for third-party candidates instead broke late for the sitting president. Polling last week predicted Bolsonara would only take around 35%.

Bolsonaro told supporters Sunday evening that he now feels highly optimistic about his chances with the field cleared out to just Lula and himself.

Bolsonaro also enjoyed the enthusiastic support of President Donald Trump, who made a direct appeal to the Brazilian people on his behalf just before the election. Many expect Trump will campaign for Bolsonaro in some fashion prior to the runoff at the end of the month.