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Brazil election: Lula maintains lead over Bolsonaro in final stretch to vote

According to polls, the leftist leader has a 10-point advantage over the current president, but falls short of the 51% he needs to win outright in the first round on October 2

Brazil election
A PT campaign rally for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Rio de Janeiro.CARL DE SOUZA (AFP)
Jorge Galindo

Brazil’s presidential election is shaping up to be a battle between the far right, represented by the current President Jair Bolsonaro, and the left, which has been gaining ground over the past few years. And with less than a week to go until the first round on October 2, the leftist candidate, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is in the lead. According to poll averages, analyzed by EL PAÍS, the Workers’ Party (PT) candidate holds an advantage of around 10 points over Bolsonaro. But to win the election in the first round and avoid a runoff vote on October 30, he needs to secure more than 50% of the vote. At the moment, he is five points short of this threshold, but he may be able to sway the 7% of voters who are currently undecided or planning to abstain.

Lula’s lead over Bolsonaro has been more or less stable since the beginning of May, when he officially announced he was running for president. The fluctuations in the margin appear to be due more to circumstantial issues, and it is unclear whether they will affect the outcome of the October 2 vote. For now, none of the most recent polls, nor the historical averages calculated by EL PAÍS, give Lula a lead of more than 15 points or show him clearly winning the election in the first round.

The polls indicate that Bolsonaro gained more support when former judge, Sergio Moro, and João Doria, the former governor of São Paulo, pulled out of the race. But this has not appeared to affect Lula’s voter base, which also remained stable after the centrist Simone Tebet and center-left politician Ciro Gomes announced their candidacies. In other words, Lula’s base seems notably less volatile than that of the current president.

For this reason, recent polls have begun to question whether Lula could in fact win the election in the first round. An overwhelming victory at the October 2 vote would also make it more difficult for Bolsonaro to deny the election results, something which he has hinted at doing.

For both Lula and Bolsonaro, the margin between the highest and lowest estimate in the polls is between only six and eight points. This means that even if Lula achieves the lowest estimate and Bolsonaro the highest, the former president would still be in the lead. What’s more, the difference in estimates is partly due to the differing criteria of pollsters and whether estimates include undecided voters. If undecided voters are excluded from the poll averages, Lula would go from winning an estimated 44.9% to 48.2%, while Bolsonaro would receive 37.1% of the vote. In this case, Lula would have an 11-point lead over Bolsonaro, but still not the 51% or more required to win the election in the first round.

In other words, polls show that Lula will lead Bolsonaro in the first round, but will not win enough support to avoid a runoff vote on October 30. There are still days to go before the end of the high-profile campaign, which has been rocked by violence, including threats, harrasment and the murder of Lula supporters at the hands of Bolsonaro backers.



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