Former leftist president Lula leads populist rival Bolsonaro in Brazil’s first round of elections

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has a tight lead over his populist rival Jair Bolsonaro in the first round of Brazil’s general elections.

With about 97% of the votes counted, Da Silva, commonly known as Lula, received 47.9%, while the current Bolsonaro received 43.66%.

With neither of the top two candidates achieving more than 50% of the vote, the election will now enter a runoff on October 30th.

Results took longer than people expected on Sunday night, with reports of long lines at polling booths.

Bolsonaro trails Da Silva in polls ahead of Sunday’s vote

(Getty Images)

It was also a much tighter race than expected and polls, which predicted a big advantage for Lula in the first round, appear to have underestimated support for Bolsonaro.

A second-round vote could add to the fierce polarization and simmering political violence in Brazil. It will also be seen as a boost for Bolsonaro, who trailed Lula by 10 to 15 percentage points in polls ahead of the vote.

Da Silva will now face Bolsonaro in the second round


On Sunday, at least 120 million Brazilians went to the polls in the election that had 10 presidential candidates in total.

Former metalworker and left-wing union leader da Silva and retired far-right military man Bolsonaro were the main candidates.

Da Silva, who was president from 2003 to 2010, was arrested during the last election in 2018 and could not run against Bolsonaro, although opinion polls indicated he could have won.

Supporters of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva chant slogans as they await results at the end of general election day

(Getty Images)

He was banned from running over a conviction for corruption and money laundering, for which he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Da Silva served 19 months before the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, alleging the judge conspired with prosecutors — a move that allowed him to face his rival this year.

During his campaign, Bolsonaro has repeatedly cast unfounded doubts about the country’s electoral system, prompting fears that he might refuse to accept defeat.

Political economist Filipe Campante reacted to news of the first round results, saying: “Make no mistake, the odds look substantially bleaker for Brazilian democracy now than 24 hours ago.

“Bolsonaro will have a real chance to win the second round and in that case we are in trouble.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at