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The presidential election in Brazil heads to a runoff between Lula and Bolsonaro

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

In Brazil, the presidential race heads to a runoff at the end of this month after the far-right incumbent, President Jair Bolsonaro, did far better than expected.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the leftist former president, came in first but did not win outright. He needed a majority and fell just a bit short. It was a polarized election between two men considered populists, one on the left, one on the right.

MARTINEZ: NPR South America correspondent Carrie Kahn joins us now from Rio de Janeiro with the latest. Carrie, there was a much tighter race than expected. So what happened.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Two things. The right in Brazil came out in big numbers and sent the race to a runoff. And the pollsters were wrong. They were just wrong. Brazil's major polls had predicted a double-digit win by former president and leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Many Bolsonaro voters may have switched at the last minute or just wouldn't admit voting for Bolsonaro to pollsters. We don't know. He's just a provocative, brash, far-right nationalist here. He rails against political correctness, makes homophobic comments. He's criticized for bungling the COVID pandemic. And under his tenure, destruction of the Amazon rainforest has skyrocketed. But his base is loyal. They came out for him, like Juthe Cardoza (ph). Here's what she said.

JUTHE CARDOZA: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: "We Brazilians love Bolsonaro as much as you Americans love Trump." Trump is a political ally of the president here, who takes many cues from the former U.S. president. He cries fraud a lot and says the media lies and pollsters are wrong. And last night, he got to say he was right about the polls.

MARTINEZ: What about da Silva? What has he said about his performance yesterday?

KAHN: He spoke to supporters in a very subdued rally after the final vote count was in. The 76-year-old leftist said he's prepared for the runoff and a chance to debate Bolsonaro one on one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: He says the struggle will continue until the final victory for Brazil. Da Silva is remembered here for his big government spending that really helped lift many people out of poverty. An outright victory for him last night would have been a spectacular political comeback. After his presidency, he was jailed on corruption charges in 2018. He was released from jail and later had his conviction annulled. But many voters don't trust him or his party.

MARTINEZ: Now, the act of actually going to the polls, Carrie, how did that go yesterday? And what expectations about the next four weeks are there leading up to the runoff?

KAHN: Well, it's very long lines in polling stations here in Rio de Janeiro. It's going to be a tense and intense next four weeks until the October 30 runoff. Brazil is very polarized right now. These two men have outlined very distinct plans for the country. Look; generally, the poor went for da Silva and see economics as the main issue for them. Brazil's economy is sputtering still after the pandemic. And Bolsonaro supporters generally are more well-off. And they really go for his family values, anti-abortion, pro-gun message. He speaks a lot about the political left turn in Latin America, especially in places like Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile. And if allowed to come to Brazil, he says the, quote, "communists will erode those liberties." And as he repeatedly says, he's the defender of God, family, homeland and liberty.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Rio de Janeiro. Carrie, thanks.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.