Brazil’s former leftist president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has sealed an astonishing political comeback, beating the far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in one of the most significant and bruising elections in the country’s history.
With 99% of votes counted, Silva, a former factory worker who became Brazil’s first working-class president exactly 20 years ago, had secured 50.8% of the vote. Bolsonaro, a firebrand who was elected in 2018, received 49.1%.
A few streets away on Paulista Avenue, one of the city’s main arteries, ecstatic Lula supporters gathered to celebrate his victory and the downfall of a radical rightwing president whose presidency produced an environmental tragedy and saw nearly 700,000 Brazilians die of Covid.
“Our dream is coming true. We need to be free,” beamed Joe Kallif, a 62-year-old social activist who was among the elated throng. “Brazil was in a very dangerous place and now we are getting back our freedom. The last four years have been horrible.”
Gabrielly Soares, a 19-year-old student, jumped in joy as she commemorated the imminent victory of a leader whose social policies helped her achieve a university education.
“I feel so happy … During four years of Bolsonaro I saw my family slip backwards and under Lula they flourished,” she said, a rainbow banner draped over her shoulders.
Ecstatic and tearful supporters of Lula – who secured more than 59m votes to Bolsonaro’s 57m – hugged and threw cans of beer in the air.
“This means we are going to have someone in power who cares about those at the bottom. Right now we have a person who doesn’t care about the majority, about us, about LGBT people,” Soares said. “Bolsonaro … is a bad person. He doesn’t show a drop of empathy or solidarity for others. There is no way he can continue as president.”
There was celebration around the region too as leftist allies tweeted their congratulations. “Viva Lula,” said Colombia’s leader, Gustavo Petro.