Lula maintains lead over Bolsonaro in Brazil election race

Far-right president remains on course to fail in re-election bid

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro remains on course to fail in his re-election bid according to the first opinion poll since Sunday’s first round of voting, which saw an unexpectedly strong showing for hard right candidates.

In a poll released by Ipec on Wednesday night, Mr Bolsonaro was favoured by 43 per cent of voters versus 51 per cent backing his left-wing rival, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The two men face each other in a run-off on October 30th.

Mr Bolsonaro’s support in the Ipec poll matches his vote on Sunday, reinforcing arguments that in the race’s final stretch he managed to peel away convinced anti-Lula voters from third party candidates.

Polling companies had shown him trailing Lula by double digits but he came in just five points behind the former union leader who won 48 per cent of the vote, within pollsters’ margin of error. Mr Bolsonaro’s 43 per cent was just above Lula’s rejection rating in most polls. The president’s in contrast has been above 50 per cent for more than a year. On Sunday he became the first sitting president to lose in the first round of a re-election bid. No candidate coming second in the first round has gone on to win a run-off.


Mr Bolsonaro’s unexpectedly strong showing on Sunday has led his supporters to claim polling companies are conspiring against his campaign. The president’s son, congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, has started collecting signatures in an effort to open a congressional investigation into what he claims is the “political use” of polling to “influence” the results in favour of certain candidates and parties.

This is despite Brazil’s main polling institutes better capturing voter intentions than polls contracted by pro-Bolsonaro groups, which showed him holding a large lead over Lula ahead of Sunday’s vote. The polling failure was more pronounced in races for governors and congress. Brazilian polling companies have long struggled with down ticket races because so many voters say they pay little attention to politics and only choose candidates for governors and congress in a campaign’s closing days.

Following Sunday’s election both candidates have been seeking endorsements, with Lula picking up those of Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes, the third- and fourth-placed candidates respectively. Meanwhile Mr Bolsonaro picked up several important endorsements in key states as he seeks to overturn a six-million vote deficit. He also said on Wednesday that Lula’s huge victory in Brazil’s northeast, the country’s second most populous region, was due to the region’s high levels of illiteracy.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America