With 99.7% of the electronic votes counted, Lula is ahead with 48.4% of the votes to Bolsonaro, who got 43.3%, reported the national electoral authority. As neither obtained a majority of support, the election will go to a second round of voting on October 30.
Several opinion polls had shown Lula Da Silva leading the far-right Bolsonaro by 10-15 percentage points before Sunday’s vote. The tighter-than-expected result has dashed hopes of a quick resolution to a deeply polarized and violent election in the world’s fourth-largest democracy.
Bolsonaro had questioned polls that showed him losing to Lula in the first round. He has also attacked the integrity of Brazil’s electronic voting system, and suggested he might not concede if he loses.
“The far right is very strong throughout Brazil,” said political scientist Carlos Melo. “Lula’s victory in a runoff is now less likely. Bolsonaro will come very strongly to re-election.”
Lula, for his part, put an optimistic spin on the result, saying he would only postpone his victory and was looking forward to facing Bolsonaro in a debate. “We can compare the Brazil he has built with the one we built,” the former president said.
Bolsonaro was also calm and confident in his post-election remarks. “I plan to make the right political alliances to win this election,” he told reporters, pointing to the significant gains his party made in Congress in Sunday’s general election. His right-wing allies won 19 of the 27 seats up for grabs in the Senate, and early results suggest a strong presence of his base in the lower house.