Brazil rivals stage final rallies ahead of cliffhanger vote

5. Brazil
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (left) and former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva get ready before the start of a debate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 28, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Brazil’s presidential candidates were gearing up for their final rallies Saturday in a scramble for votes on the eve of a white-knuckle election that has deeply polarized Latin America’s largest economy.اضافة اعلان

The 77-year-old leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, tarnished by graft allegations, remains a hair’s breadth ahead in the polls after a narrow first-round victory.

But many see the race against rightwing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, 67, as too close to call.

The two men came face to face for the last time Friday night in their final debate, which featured mutual accusations of lying, corruption and disastrous management.

The run-off campaign has been a dirty, gloves-off battle for every last vote between two men adored and hated in almost equal measure.

In Belo Horizonte, the capital of key state Minas Gerais, Bolsonaro supporters gathered in the bright green and yellow colors of Brazil that they have adopted to cheer on the conservative at a motorcycle rally.

‘Whoever gets most votes, wins’

Bolsonaro is seeking re-election after a first term in which he was accused of mishandling the pandemic, which left more than 685,000 dead in Brazil.

His tenure was marked by vitriolic attacks on his perceived rivals, ranging from the judiciary to women and foreign leaders.

In campaign ads, Bolsonaro apologized for his occasional “slightly aggressive” tone, and he has boasted of reduced crime rates, a drop in unemployment figures, and curbed inflation.

His conservative fans love his focus on “God, country, family, and freedom.”

On Saturday, Brazil’s electoral authorities dispatched electronic ballot boxes across the country, from cities to remote Indigenous areas in the Amazon, reported Globo News.

“We are absolutely certain that Sunday will be a day of celebration of democracy, a celebration of popular choice. I am sure that all 156 million Brazilians will respect the result of the election,” top electoral judge Alexandre de Moraes told Brazil’s biggest network.

Bolsonaro on Friday night made one of his clearest pledges yet to respect the election result if he loses, after a campaign in which he has repeatedly attacked the voting system as fraudulent and said he would not accept the results of an “abnormal” vote.

“There isn’t the slightest doubt: whoever gets the most votes, wins. That’s democracy,” he said.

Lula will make his final appearance in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic powerhouse, later on Saturday.

The leftist, Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, is seeking a comeback, telling voters they are choosing between “democracy and barbarism, between peace and war”.

He was the country’s most popular president when he left office, helping to lift millions out of poverty with his social welfare programs.

But he then became mired in a massive corruption scandal and was jailed for 18 months before his convictions were thrown out last year. The Supreme Court found the lead judge was biased, but Lula was never exonerated.

The dogfight has frayed nerves in the country of 215 million people, which is facing pressing issues, including hunger and economic recovery from the pandemic.

However, critical policy issues such as the economy, corruption and the stricken Amazon have taken a backseat to personal attacks.

Fight for undecided voters

Bolsonaro outperformed pollsters’ predictions in the first-round vote on October 2 to finish just five points shy of Lula — 48 percent to 43 percent.

Lula now has 53 percent voter support to Bolsonaro’s 47 percent, according to a poll published Thursday by the Datafolha institute, which will release a final poll Saturday night.

Both candidates have gone all-out to win over the 5 percent of voters who plan to spoil their ballots, and another two percent that are “undecided”.

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