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Brazilians on tenterhooks ahead of polarising poll

 

Brazilians are heading to the polls on Sunday in an election which could see one of the world’s most populous democracies switch from a far-right to a left-wing leader.

Voting is compulsory for the more than 156 million Brazilians eligible.

Incumbent Jair Bolsonaro is seeking a second term after four years in power but is being challenged by ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

A result is expected within hours after polls close at 17:00 (20:00 GMT).

Poles apart

The campaign has been acrimonious and polarising with the two main candidates trading insults.

During a televised debate on Thursday, President Bolsonaro called Lula, who served time in prison after being convicted on corruption charges, an “ex-inmate” and a “traitor”, while Lula labelled the president “a liar”.

Lula was not able to run in the last election in 2018 because he was in jail and barred from standing for office.

His Workers’ Party colleague, Fernando Haddad, did not have the same name recognition and failed to inspire left-wing voters in the way Lula does.

Amid widespread discontent with mainstream politics and anger at corruption scandals which had tainted the Workers’ Party, far-right lawmaker and former army captain Jair Bolsonaro was swept into office.

But with Lula’s conviction annulled by the Supreme Court, the former president is very much back on the scene and opinion polls give him a double-digit lead over Bolsonaro.

There are nine other candidates in the running, but polls suggest their support does not amount to more than 10%, leaving Lula and Bolsonaro to battle it out.

One round or two?

Brazil’s electoral system requires that a candidate win more than 50% of the valid votes cast in order to be declared president outright.

 

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