Bolsonaro, Lula Head for Runoff in Contentious Brazil Presidential Election

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came out ahead of incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro during Brazil's election on Sunday, but neither reached the over 50 percent threshold needed to win the contest. A second round run-off election will now be held on October 30 to determine the winner.

Results showed Lula ahead with 48.2 percent of the vote while Bolsonaro has 43.4 percent with just about 100 percent of ballots counted.

Brazil Election Lula
Supporters of former President of Brazil and Candidate for the Worker's Party (PT) Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva shout slogans at the end of the general election day at Largo da Prainha on October 02, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Da Silva, who is commonly referred to as Lula, had been polling well-ahead of Bolsonaro in the days leading up to the election. He served as president between 2001 and 2010, and "governed in a moment of an abundance of resources and popularity," according to Bruna Santos, a senior adviser at the Wilson Center's Brazil Institute.

"After two terms, he left a boastful 80 percent approval rate, Brazil's middle class expanded, and the country's notorious gap between rich and poor narrowed. All that bolstered by soaring global commodities prices," Santos wrote in an email to Newsweek on Sunday.

Lula was jailed in 2018 after being convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to 12 years. However, he was released from prison in 2019 and his conviction was later vacated by Brazil's highest court. In April, the UN's Human Rights Committee found Lula's investigation and prosecution "violated his right to be tried by an impartial tribunal, his right to privacy and his political rights."

Here's what Lula tweeted Sunday night (translated into English): "Tomorrow we will be on the streets to win the elections. We don't have a break. We are going to work hard, and here in São Paulo we are going to choose @Haddad_Fernando and we are going to travel the states of Brazil."

Lula's victory comes as Bolsonaro attempted to cast doubt on Brazil's election system and, without evidence, accused it of being vulnerable to fraud, stating, according to CNN that if didn't get "at least 60 percent," of the vote the public should be suspicious of the result. He has been criticized for attacking the state's judicial system and rallying protests against it, and has a record of anti-LGBTQ comments and actions, such as the removal of LGBTQ rights from human rights ministry considerations and mentions of homosexuality from textbooks.

Santos told Newsweek that Lula will "govern under totally different circumstances" than he did previously.

"The country has gone through more than a decade of economic turmoil, and the international chess board has also changed, primarily due to a supply chain shock due to the war in Ukraine. Possibilities for Brazil are opening, as the country is among the ten largest oil and gas producers globally and a global producer and exporter of soybean, coffee, sugar and meat," Santos wrote.

"Brazil is well positioned in the global energy transition; half of the country's energy comes from renewable sources. Worth mentioning that Brazil also boasts the financial technology market in Latin America, the fifth largest in the world."

Sunday's election means Brazil's election will be drawn out for another month. Lula polled well-ahead of Bolsonaro in the days leading up to the election, and with a lead in the first-round of the contest, could be poised to make a major political comeback.

Lula had formerly served as president between 2001 and 2010, and "governed in a moment of an abundance of resources and popularity," according to Bruna Santos, a senior adviser at the Wilson Center's Brazil Institute.

Before the election results came in on Saturday, Santos told Newsweek in an email that Lula was "leading the polls in a presidential election seized by violence, extreme political polarization, and an intentional campaign led by his adversary, President Jair Bolsonaro, doubting the electoral process and institutions."

"Bolsonaro has spent the last two years spreading conspiracy theories about Brazil's electoral system," Santos said.

Bolsonaro has been criticized for attacking the state's judicial system and rallying protests against it, and has a record of anti-LGBTQ comments and actions, such as the removal of LGBTQ rights from human rights ministry considerations and mentions of homosexuality from textbooks.

In 2018, Bolsonaro was elected with a pledge to develop the Amazon and under his administration, deforestation hit a 15-year high, according to the Associated Press.

Bolsonaro said that "fundamental values for Brazilian society, reflected in the human rights agenda, are the defense of the family, the right to life from conception, self-defense and the repudiation of gender ideology."

He also defended criticism of his environmental policies, stating that in "the Brazilian Amazon, an area equivalent to Western Europe, more than 80 percent of the forest remains untouched, contrary to what is publicized by the major national and international media," according to CNN.

The incumbent president, who has was endorsed and lauded by former U.S. President Donald Trump, who in a video message on Saturday, called Bolsonaro "one of the great presidents of any country in the world."

"He's done an absolutely incredible job with your economy, with your country. He's respected by everybody all throughout the world. So I strongly endorse President Bolsonaro. He will be your leader for hopefully a long time," Trump said.