Brazil’s Bolsonaro yet to concede after Lula’s election victory


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SAO PAULO/BRASILIA — Brazil’s outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro had on Monday yet to concede defeat in the presidential election, raising fears the far-right nationalist might contest the victory of his leftist rival, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Tens of thousands of jubilant supporters took to the streets of Sao Paulo on Sunday night to celebrate a stunning comeback for Lula, a 77-year-old former metalworker who served two terms as president from 2003 to 2010. His electoral win follows a spell in prison for corruption convictions that were later annulled.

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Bolsonaro left his residence on Monday morning and headed to the presidential palace, but had still not made any public comments. He is the first Brazilian incumbent to lose a presidential election. Lula has vowed to overturn his legacy, including pro-gun policies and weak protection of the Amazon rainforest.

Pitching the contest as a battle for democracy after his rival made baseless claims the electoral system was open to fraud, Lula promised to unite his deeply divided country and celebrated what he called his “resurrection.”

“I will govern for 215 million Brazilians, and not just for those who voted for me,” Lula said at his campaign headquarters. “There are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people, one great nation.”

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The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) declared Lula won 50.9% of votes, against 49.1% for Bolsonaro. Lula’s inauguration is scheduled for Jan. 1.

Lula’s win consolidates a new “pink tide” in Latin America, and means the left will govern all the region’s major economies after a string of electoral successes from Mexico to Argentina in recent years.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez hailed “a new era for the history of Latin America. A time of hope and future that begins today.” Fernandez announced a trip to neighbor Brazil on Monday to meet Lula.

Congratulations poured in from foreign leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, who called the election “free, fair and credible.”

China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron all extended congratulations.

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Nonetheless, Bolsonaro’s continued silence sparked fears that the handover of power may not be entirely clean.

Pro-Bolsonaro truckers blocked highways across Brazil, with at least 70 full or partial blockades according to the Federal Highway Police. Truckers are one of Bolsonaro’s key constituencies, and they have been known to cause economic chaos in Brazil when they shut down highways.

Sources told Reuters that there were no confirmed reports of disruption of grain shipments in Mato Grosso, Brazil’s biggest farm state, though some roads there had been blocked.

A source in the Bolsonaro campaign told Reuters the president would not make public remarks until Monday. The Bolsonaro campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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“I don’t know if he will call or if he will recognize my victory,” Lula said, in a speech to supporters on Sao Paulo’s Paulista Avenue.

Markets braced for a volatile week ahead.

Brazil’s real was up as much as 0.5% against the dollar after falling as much as 2% earlier in the session, while the Bovespa rose 0.3% after sinking 2% in early trading. Investors waited eagerly for news of Lula’s cabinet and the risk of Bolsonaro questioning results.

One close Bolsonaro ally, lawmaker Carla Zambelli, in an apparent nod to the results, wrote on Twitter, “I PROMISE you, I will be the greatest opposition that Lula has ever imagined.”

The vote was a rebuke for the fiery far-right populism of Bolsonaro, who emerged from the back benches of Congress to forge a conservative coalition but lost support as Brazil ran up one of the worst death tolls of the coronavirus pandemic.

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International election observers said Sunday’s election was conducted efficiently. One observer told Reuters that military auditors did not find any flaws in integrity tests they did of the voting system.

Lula’s has vowed a return to state-driven economic growth and social policies that helped lift millions out of poverty during two terms as president. He also promises to combat destruction of the Amazon rainforest, now at a 15-year high, and make Brazil a leader in global climate talks.

“These were four years of hatred, of negation of science,” said Ana Valeria Doria, 60, a doctor in Rio de Janeiro who celebrated with a drink on Sunday night. “It won’t be easy for Lula to manage the division in this country. But for now it’s pure happiness.”

A former union leader born into poverty, Lula’s presidency was marked by a commodity-driven economic boom and he left office with record popularity.

However, his Workers Party was later tarred by a deep recession and a record-breaking corruption scandal that jailed him for 19 months on bribery convictions, which were overturned by the Supreme Court last year.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia, Brian Ellsworth, Ana Mano, Gabriel Araujo and Lisandra Paraguassu in Sao Paulo; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel, Editing by Brad Haynes, Angus MacSwan and Frank Jack Daniel)



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