SAO PAULO/BRASILIA — President Jair Bolsonaro had yet to concede defeat in Brazil’s presidential election by Monday afternoon (Oct. 31) — something that some fear may be a precursor to him contesting the victory of his leftist rival, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The 77-year-old Lula, a former metalworker who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 narrowly won the run-off election on Oct. 30, prompting celebration from left-wing and progressive groups around the country. Lula had previously served jail time for corruption convictions, but these were later annulled.
The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) declared Lula won 50.9 percent of votes, against 49.1 percent for Bolsonaro, who becomes the first Brazilian incumbent to lose a presidential election.
Prior to the vote, Bolsonaro made many claims that the electoral system was open to fraud. After the election, he has not made any public comments upon heading to the presidential palace in Brasilia, the capital.
Pro-Bolsonaro truckers blocked highways across Brazil to protest Lula’s victory and alleged electoral fraud; according to authorities, 12 Brazilian states were affected in the morning.
Lula is set on overturning many of Bolsonaro’s policies, which generally follow a populist, pro-business line, but have been criticized for weak environmental protections.
Speaking in his victory speech on Sunday evening, Lula celebrated his “resurrection” and pledged to strongly police illegal logging, mining and land grabbing, ills that are popularly associated with Bolsonaro by his critics, though not without controversy.
Even before he is due to take office on Jan. 1, President-elect Lula will send representatives to next month’s COP27 United Nations climate summit in Saudi Arabia, allied environmentalist Marina Silva said on Monday.
Pitching the contest as a battle for democracy, Lula promised to bring unity to the country, which is deeply divided on political issues.
“I will govern for 215 million Brazilians, and not just for those who voted for me,” Lula said at his campaign headquarters. “We are one country, one people, one great nation.”
Lula’s win consolidates a new “pink tide” in Latin America, and means the left will govern all the region’s major economies after a string of electoral successes from Mexico to Argentina in recent years.
U.S. President Joe Biden moved quickly to congratulate Lula, calling the election “free, fair and credible.” Biden will speak with Lula later on Monday, the White House said.
Congratulations also poured in from other foreign leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.
But Bolsonaro’s continued silence sparked fears over the handover of power.
“I don’t know if he will call or if he will recognize my victory,” Lula said, in a speech to supporters on Sao Paulo’s Paulista Avenue on Sunday.
Reuters contributed to this report.