Leftist Lula da Silva wins over 50 percent of the votes against right-wing rival Bolsonaro in Brazil’s run-off presidential election, says the nation's electoral authority.

Brazil's former President and presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks at an election night gathering on the day of the Brazilian presidential election run-off, in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 30, 2022.
Brazil's former President and presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks at an election night gathering on the day of the Brazilian presidential election run-off, in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 30, 2022. (Reuters)

Leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has won Brazil's divisive election, defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a narrow vote.

With more than 99% of the votes tallied in Sunday's run-off vote, da Silva had 50.9% and Bolsonaro 49.1%, and the election authority said da Silva’s victory was a mathematical certainty.

Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court (TES) has said the country’s presidential election was “mathematically defined” with former president Lula da Silva taking more votes than incumbent Bolsonaro.

"Today the only winner is the Brazilian people," da Silva said in a speech at a hotel in downtown Sao Paulo. "This isn't a victory of mine or the Workers' Party, nor the parties that supported me in the campaign. It's the victory of a democratic movement that formed above political parties, personal interests and ideologies so that democracy came out victorious."

It is a stunning reversal for da Silva, 77, whose 2018 imprisonment over a corruption scandal sidelined him from the 2018 election that brought Bolsonaro, a defender of conservative social values, to power.

He said he will govern for all Brazilians and not just those who voted for him and called "it is time to put down arms that never should have been taken up".

Da Silva is promising to govern beyond his leftist Workers’ Party. He wants to bring in centrists and even some leaning to the right who voted for him for the first time, and to restore the country’s more prosperous past. Yet he faces headwinds in a politically polarised society where economic growth is slowing and inflation is soaring.

His victory marks the first time since Brazil’s 1985 return to democracy that the sitting president has failed to win reelection. The highly polarized election in Latin America's biggest economy extended a wave of recent leftist victories in the region, including Chile, Colombia and Argentina.

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

Bolsonaro silent

Bolsonaro, 67, was silent in the hours after the result was declared.

"Anywhere in the world, the losing president would already have called to admit defeat. He hasn't called yet, I don't know if he will call and concede," Lula told the massive crowd.

Some Bolsonaro supporters, gathered in the capital Brasilia, refused to accept the results.

"The Brazilian people aren't going to swallow a faked election and hand our nation over to a thief," said 50-year-old teacher Ruth da Silva Barbosa.

In the closest race since Brazil returned to democracy after its 1964-1985 dictatorship, electoral officials declared the election for Lula.

READ MORE: Brazil voters bombarded with misinformation ahead of presidential run-off

Over 150 million voted

Many Brazilians support Bolsonaro's defence of conservative social values and he has shored up support with vast government spending.

More than 150 million Brazilians are eligible to vote, yet about 20% of the electorate abstained in the first round. Both da Silva and Bolsonaro have focused efforts on driving turnout. 

The electoral authority prohibited any federal highway police operations from affecting voters’ passage on public transport.

Congratulations for da Silva — and Brazil — b egan to pour in from around Latin America and across the world Sunday evening, including from U.S. President Joe Biden, who highlighted the country’s “free, fair, and credible elections.” The European Union also congratulated da Silva in a statement, commending the electoral authority for its effectiveness and transparency throughout the campaign.

Bolsonaro had been leading throughout the first half of the count and, as soon as da Silva overtook him, cars in the streets of downtown Sao Paulo began honking their horns. People in the streets of Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood could be heard shouting, “It turned!”

Da Silva’s headquarters in downtown Sao Paulo hotel only erupted once the final result was announced, underscoring the tension that was a hallmark of this race.

“Four years waiting for this,” said Gabriela Souto, one of the few supporters allowed in due to heavy security.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies