© Reuters. Former Brazil’s President and current presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a news conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 1, 2022. REUTERS/Carla Carniel
By Victor Borges
BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took an early lead in the initial tally of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, ahead of challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose Workers Party draws more support from regions that are slower to report.
With 20% of electronic voting machines counted, Bolsonaro was ahead with 48% of the votes against 43% for Lula, the national electoral authority said on its website.
In 2014, when the leftist Workers Party (PT) last won a presidential election, its advantage only appeared after two hours of vote counting. Results from Brazil’s poorer northeast, a traditional PT stronghold, often take longer to reach the TSE.
There were reports of long lines at voting stations that closed at 5 p.m (2000 GMT) as many Brazilians turned out to vote in a tense election, punctuated by isolated violence and fears over a sharp uptick in gun ownership under Bolsonaro.
Military police in Sao Paulo said a man entered a voting station and fired at two police officers who were receiving medical attention.
Most opinion polls have shown Lula with a 10-15 percentage point lead, but Bolsonaro has signaled he may refuse to accept defeat, stoking fears of institutional crisis. If Lula wins over 50% of valid votes, which several pollsters show within reach, he would clinch an outright victory, foregoing a run-off.
In Brasilia, Ricardo Almeida, 45, voted wearing the yellow-and-green colors of Brazil’s flag. “I voted for (Bolsonaro) because of his Christian faith, his defense of family values and his conservative politics,” he said.
Wearing a “Get Out Bozo” shirt, Rio de Janeiro resident Anna Luisa, 70, said she was voting for Lula for the first time.
“I have to take down Bolsonaro,” she said, citing his “homophobia” and his stance over Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, which Bolsonaro has long supported.
Although he ended his 2003-2010 government with record popularity, Lula is now loathed by many Brazilians after he was convicted of accepting bribes. The leftist, who was president from 2003 to 2010, was jailed during the last election. But his conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court, allowing him to face his rival Bolsonaro this year.
Voting in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Lula acknowledged the dramatic turnaround in his fortunes after a prosecution that he calls politically motivated.
“It’s an important day for me,” he said. “Four years ago I couldn’t vote because I was the victim of a lie … I want to try to help my country to return to normal.”
Bolsonaro voted in Rio, and said he expected to win the election in Sunday’s first round, despite his poor showing in the polls, which he claims do not capture his popular support.
If no candidate wins over half of the votes, excluding blank and spoiled ballots, the top two go to an Oct. 30 run-off.
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