Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has won a bitterly fought election in Brazil, defeating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.
Universally known as Lula, he was previously president for two terms between 2003 and 2010. He secured 50.8 per cent of the vote to 49.1 per cent gained by Bolsonaro, who was elected in 2018.
“Today the only winner is the Brazilian people,” he said in a speech at a São Paulo hotel.
“This isn’t a victory of mine or the Workers’ Party, nor the parties that supported me in [the] campaign.
“It’s the victory of a democratic movement that formed above political parties, personal interests and ideologies so that democracy came out victorious.”
After an election race that deeply divided the country, Lula promised to reunify Brazil and will govern for 215 million Brazilians, not just those who voted for him.
“There are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people – a great nation,” he said.
“It is in nobody’s interests to live in a country that is divided and in a constant state of war.”
Lula was congratulated by leftist allies from around the region as well as other world leaders including Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, and Emmanuel Macron.
The 77-year-old was sidelined from the 2018 election that saw Bolsonaro rise to power. He was jailed on corruption charges in 2017 then released in 2019 with all convictions annulled.
Supporters gathered in the streets to celebrate his comeback and the defeat of Bolsonaro, who saw an environmental tragedy and nearly 700,000 people die due to Covid during his presidency.
Bolsonaro had promised to continue the right-wing policies of his government while his opponent promised to return to the socialist policies of his past presidential terms.
Lula vowed to fight hunger, racism and the environmental devastation which surged during Bolsonaro’s presidency.
“We will fight for zero deforestation in the Amazon… Brazil and the planet need the Amazon alive,” he said.
“We are going to restart the monitoring and surveillance of the Amazon and combat any kind of illegal activity.
“We are not interested in a war over the environment but we are ready to defend it from any threat.”
Bolsonaro had indicated he may not accept the election results if he lost. This marked the first time a sitting president has not been re-elected since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985.