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Brazil faces a second-round presidential run-off on October 30 following the first round on October 2, in which former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won 48.4% to 43.2% for incumbent Jair Bolsonaro on 79% turnout. Lula was within 2 percentage points of the 50%-plus-one needed for a first-round victory, and his vote was within the margin of error of most opinion polls. However, his lead was narrower than predicted, given Bolsonaro’s stronger-than-expected showing. Right-wing parties increased their representation in Congress; Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party will have 99 seats in the 513-seat Lower House, and 14 of 81 in the Senate (up from eight previously), including several controversial former ministers. Bolsonaro’s candidates also won nine governorships in the first round. Lula and his candidates performed relatively poorly in the key Sao Paulo state, despite his and his running-mate’s roots there.

Although momentum has shifted behind Bolsonaro, Lula remains the likelier winner of the run-off. However, the narrower-than-expected first-round result will encourage Bolsonaro and his supporters to dismiss opinion polls and to claim fraud in any eventual defeat, and the risk of violence both before and after the run-off is high. The vote has highlighted the deep divisions within Brazilian society and the ongoing strength of the far right. The composition of a fragmented Congress will present obstacles to the government’s legislative agenda, for a Lula government in particular.

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  • Will there be significant shifts in economic and social policies under the next government?
  • How will the composition of Congress impact governance and fiscal policy?
  • What will be the election’s impact on international relations and foreign trade and investment?