Brazil’s conservative President Jair Bolsonaro has been beaten in the nation’s presidential election by the notoriously corrupt far-left socialist challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
On Sunday, Brazil’s top electoral authority announced that Lula has won the election in the country’s closest race in decades.
77-year-old hardline socialist Lula was previously convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to over two decades in prison.
He previously served two terms as president from 2003 to 2011.
In his first words as president-elect for a third term, Lula vowed to “reconstruct” Brazil and move the nation away from the small government, pro-freedom ideals of the Bolsonaro administration.
Little more than a percentage point separated Lula from Bolsonaro, representing about 2 million votes in a nation of 214 million people.
The national newspaper of record O Globo described the results as the closest election since 1989.
In the 1989 election, Lula narrowly lost to Fernando Collor de Mello, who was later impeached and ousted from office over corruption allegations in 1992.
Collor later supported the impeachment ouster of Lula’s protege, Dilma Rousseff, in 2016, also prompted by corruption allegations.
The move would kick off the series of events that ultimately led to Bolsonaro’s 2018 victory.
With 99 percent of votes counted, Lula received 50.9 percent of the vote or about 60.3 million votes.
Bolsonaro received 49.1 percent or 58.2 million votes.
The top election authority the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), counted 20.58 percent (32.2 million votes) were “abstentions,” meaning the voter did not choose a candidate at all.
Lula’s victory is particularly momentous given that, during the last round of elections, which Bolsonaro won, he was in prison after being found guilty of buying a luxury beachfront property with bribe money.
The case was part of a much larger corruption investigation that came to be known as “Operation Car Wash,” which unveiled a nationwide corruption scheme involving dozens of high-ranking politicians that operated during Lula’s presidential tenure.
The government enriched itself by offering overpriced contracts for infrastructure and other public works projects to private contractors, most notably the now-defunct firm Odebrecht, and those private contractors would then use some of the excess money to bribe the politicians, securing future contracts.
Last year, the nation’s top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), let the now president-elect run for office again by overturning his conviction on the grounds that the judge initially in charge of the case, Sergio Moro, was personally biased against Lula and originally did not have jurisdiction to try the case.
The reasoning did not challenge any of the evidence against Lula or the appeals that affirmed the original conviction.
Lula claimed – despite having the bureaucracy of the nation’s top court singlehandedly end his status as convicted felon to allow him to run for office again – that he had faced in this election “not an adversary, but a machinery of the Brazilian state placed at the service of the candidate in this situation to prevent us from winning the elections.”
“They tried to bury me alive,” he complained.
Democrat President Joe Biden was among the first to congratulate Lula on his reported victory on Sunday.
As a candidate in 2020, Biden vowed to destroy the Brazilian economy as a president if Bolsonaro did not accept an unspecified $20-billion environmental investment.
The threat prompted Bolsonaro to later threaten to go to war with the United States.
Their relationship never recovered.
After getting the desired result, Biden praised the election as “free, fair, and credible” in a statement.
“I send my congratulations to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on his election to be the next president of Brazil following free, fair, and credible elections,” Biden said.
“I look forward to working together to continue the cooperation between our two countries in the months and years ahead.”