RIO DE JANEIRO – Ultra-rightist candidate Jair Bolsonaro won a plurality in Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, obtaining 46.7 percent of the votes with some 96 percent of the ballots counted, according to the latest official results.
Election authorities (TSE) say that Workers Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad is in second place with 28.37 percent of the valid votes, meaning that he will face off against Bolsonaro in a run-off election on Oct. 28.
Ciro Gomes, with the Democratic Labor Party, is in third place with about 12.45 percent, far behind the two front-runners despite his expressed hopes to mount a comeback at the ballot box that was never evident in the voter surveys.
In another closely-watched race, deposed former President Dilma Rousseff, with the Workers Party, lost her bid for a Senate seat for the state of Minas Gerais, coming in fourth in that race with just over 15 percent of the votes, a far cry from voter surveys, which had shown her leading all other candidates, although the two winning candidates – who will now fill the two available seats – each garnered just over 20 percent.
The PT lost the governorship in its main bastion of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second-most-populous state, with Fernando Pimental, an important PT leader, going down to defeat with just 22.6 percent of the votes. That election will go to a runoff between Novo party candidate Romeu Zema and the Social Democrats’ Sen. Antonio Anastasia.
Brazilians headed to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president, members of Congress, governors and state legislators in what many observers consider the most important vote in the past two decades.
Some 147.3 million voters were eligible to cast ballots in the election, in which the presidency, the governorships of 27 states, two-thirds of the Senate, the 513 seats in the lower house of Congress and all state legislative seats are up for grabs.
Many observers consider this year’s general elections the most important since 1985, when democracy was restored in Latin America’s largest country.
The campaign was marked by polarization among the electorate amid the extreme positions taken by socialist Haddad and rightist Bolsonaro, who was stabbed at a rally on Sept. 6.
Bolsonaro said that he was sure he would be elected on Sunday without having to compete in a run-off.
“It will be decided today,” Bolsonaro, a reserve army captain, said after voting in Rio de Janeiro.
Haddad, who replaced Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the electoral race, voted in Sao Paulo and told the press that he expected the presidential vote to go to a run-off.
“In the first place, we want a day of calm, peace, of respect for diversity and difference. In the second place, we have a lot of confidence that there will be a run-off and that’s very good for Brazil,” the candidate of the Workers Party (PT) said before casting his vote.
The former Sao Paulo mayor for months was the PT’s “Plan B” and was only tapped as the candidate on Sept. 11 after the electoral court barred Lula from because he had lost a court appeal on his corruption and money laundering conviction.
A Datafolha poll found that Bolsonaro would get 45 percent of the vote in the run-off to Haddad’s 43 percent, while an Instituto Ibope poll gave the rightist 45 percent support to the socialist’s 41 percent.
Meanwhile, the three states of Espiritu Santo, Tocantins and Parana elected governors in the first round on Sunday, with at least 90 percent of the precincts reporting.
Renato Casagrande, with the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), won in Espiritu Santo with 55.28 percent of the vote after having been elected state governor in 2010 but losing re-election in 2014; Mauro Carlesse, with the Humanist Party of Solidarity, won in Tocantins with 57.18 percent after being appointed to take over the governor’s office temporarily for the deposed Marcelo Miranda, and Carlos Roberto Massa, won in Parana with 60.13 percent.
In Brazil’s Federal District, Ibaneis Rocha won a plurality in the governor’s race with 42 percent of the vote but will have to go to a run-off against PSB candidate Rodrigo Rollemberg, who obtained just 13.92 percent, but was the second highest vote-getter in a fragmented race.