Presidential rivals make last-ditch bid for votes just a day before run-off election, telling thousands of their supporters they are confident of victory.

Both candidates have fervent support, but many will merely vote for the candidate they least detest -- or spoil their ballots.
Both candidates have fervent support, but many will merely vote for the candidate they least detest -- or spoil their ballots. (AFP)

Thousands of cheering supporters have poured into the streets of Brazil for final rallies on the eve of a knife-edge electoral showdown between Jair Bolsonaro and rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that is seen as too close to call.

"I think we will win," the charismatic but graft-tainted former president Lula said in Sao Paulo on Saturday, vowing to "return this country to normalcy", before a final rally in which a sea of thousands of red-clad, flag-waving supporters cheered and sang "Get out Jair!"

Earlier, thousands in the bright yellow and green colors of Brazil chanted "legend, legend," as Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro held a motorcycle rally in the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte.

He also declared himself "confident of victory".

READ MORE: 'Liar', 'abortionist', 'unhinged': Bolsonaro, Lula clash in final debate

Global ramification

Lula is the slight favourite headed into the election, with 53 percent voter support to Bolsonaro's 47 percent, according to a poll published on Thursday by the Datafolha institute, which will release a final poll Saturday night.

However, Bolsonaro performed better than expected in the first round of voting and the final outcome is highly uncertain.

Exhausted, and with nerves frayed after a bitterly divisive campaign, the nation of 215 million people are voting for two wildly different visions for Brazil, with everything at stake.

The election has global ramifications: Conservationists believe the result will seal the fate of the stricken Amazon rainforest, pushed to the brink by fires and deforestation under Bolsonaro.

However, for Brazilians, issues of poverty, hunger, corruption and traditional values are top of mind.

READ MORE: Brazil election turns into holy war as Lula, Bolsonaro woo religious voters

'Democracy and barbarism'

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.

Lula, Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010, has told voters the election is a choice 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.

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," said the hardline conservative.

Both candidates have fervent support, but many will merely vote for the candidate they least detest –– or spoil their ballots.

Bolsonaro is seeking reelection after a first term in which he was accused of mishandling the pandemic, which left more than 685,000 dead in Brazil, and dismantling environmental protections.

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

READ MORE: Bolsonaro, Lula set for final 'attack-filled' debate over Brazil vote

Source: AFP