The Revolving Door

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Brazil’s former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva narrowly defeated conservative incumbent Jair Bolsonaro Sunday, in what has been described as Brazil’s most significant election since the return of democracy to the Latin American nation almost 40 years ago, Reuters reported.

With 99.8 percent of the vote counted, Lula was declared the winner with 50.9 percent of the vote over Bolsonaro’s 49.1 percent.

The stunning victory in the presidential runoff vote comes a month after Lula failed to secure an outright win in the Oct. 2 first-round vote, Bloomberg reported. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, surprised pollsters with a far stronger showing than expected even as he trailed Lula.

The two candidates had represented two different visions for Brazil: Lula – who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011 and went to prison afterward – has pledged to return Brazil to the prosperity present during his presidency. He has also promised to heal the nation’s deep divisions, restore democracy, save the Amazon rainforest and end hunger.

Bolsonaro, who faces numerous criminal investigations, had vowed to bring back Christian values to the top levels of power and cut bureaucratic red tape to encourage growth. The former army captain has strong support from the country’s powerful agribusiness sector and its evangelical community.

Following the first round, Lula warned voters that the incumbent will erode democratic institutions if granted another four-year term. Bolsonaro, on the other hand, countered that his leftist rival will set Latin America’s largest economy on a path that resembles Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the clashes between the bitter rivals had raised concern among Brazil’s electoral authorities and its international allies that Bolsonaro would contest the outcome of Sunday’s elections. That’s because for almost a year, Bolsonaro has attacked election officials over potential vote rigging, saying he would not step down if fraud impacted the elections.

On Sunday, police aligned with Bolsonaro attempted to thwart voters with roadblocks and checkpoints on their way to the polls, the Washington Post reported. That followed a call by highway police chief Silvinei Vasques to vote for Bolsonaro on Instagram, the newspaper O Globo reported.

Regardless, now, Lula has become the latest leftist leader in the region to best conservative candidates, a club that includes Colombia, Chile, Peru, Honduras, Argentina and Mexico.

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