Brazil Election Results: Surprise Surge for Bolsonaro as Left's Lula Fails to Post First Round Win

Brazil presidential elections results have gone down to the wire, with the incumbent President, Jair Bolsonaro defying odds to stay in the race, dashing the hopes of the country's Left who expected an outright victory for former president Lula da Silva.

With nearly all votes counted, the leftist leader, who ran a campaign to unseat Bolsonaro, secured nearly 48 percent of the votes while Bolsonaro received close to 44 percent.

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Facebook/Jair Bolsonaro

Dozen Candidates

There were a dozen candidates on the ballot overall, but the race was fought directly between Liberal Party leader Bolsonaro, 66, and the Workers' Party leader Lula, 74.

Under Brazilian election laws, the winning candidate must garner 50 percent of the votes. If no one reaches that threshold in the first round, the election will go into the second round, where the top two will slug it out again.

Disappointment for Left

Political analysts said the results have been a huge disappointment to the Lula camp, which expected a clean sweep. Pollsters had predicted that the Leftist icon would romp home in the first round while Bolsonaro was likely to get only around 36 percent of the votes.

Brazil's lula arrested
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cries as he speaks to supporters at the bank workers' trade union site in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 4, 2016. Reuters

Bolsonaro, who outperformed the opinion polls, now has a real shot at a second term of four more years. The second round of polling will be held on October 30.

"I feel great hope that this election will be decided tomorrow, but if it isn't we'll have to behave like a football team when a match goes to extra time. We'll rest for 15 minutes and then we'll get back out onto the pitch to score the goals we didn't score in normal time," Lula said, according to the Guardian.

Analysts concluded that the results were a setback to the progressives and the political Left. When Bolsonaro, a former army captain who went on to lead a right wing political party, came to power in 2018, it was largely seen as a one-off phenomenon. However, the latest election has clearly shown that the right wing has legs in the country.

Bolsonaro Gets Support in Large Cities

"The far-right has shown great resilience in the presidential and in the state races ... It is too soon to go too deep, but this election shows Bolsonaro's victory in 2018 was not a hiccup," said Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in São Paulo, according to the Associated Press. Bolsonaro received better than expected support in the southeast region of Brazil and in large cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro.

While Bolsonaro's four years in power were marked by controversies and his out of the box approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic, Lula has also been a tainted figure. The former President, who was convicted for corruption and money laundering in 2017, was released from prison two years later.