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Bolsonaro, Lula headed for run-off in Brazil's polarizing election

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Citizens pose in a line to vote at the Santa Tereza de Jesus school, in the Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday. Brazilians vote in an election that will decide the next President between incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and his leftist political nemesis, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Photo by Andre Coelho/EPA-EFE
Citizens pose in a line to vote at the Santa Tereza de Jesus school, in the Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday. Brazilians vote in an election that will decide the next President between incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and his leftist political nemesis, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Photo by Andre Coelho/EPA-EFE

Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's far-right leader, and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva -- a left-wing politician who was previously imprisoned on corruption charges -- are headed to a run-off election after neither candidate secured a majority of the vote on Sunday.

With 99% of Sunday's vote counted, Lula, who was favored to win, held 48.3% of ballots cast, just shy of the 50% needed to win the election outright. Bolsonaro had 43.2%, according to Brazil's Superior Electoral Court. The two candidates were separated by some 6 million votes.

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The runoff election will be held on Oct. 30.

Lula welcomed the extended campaign, stating on Twitter that the run-off is to be held three days after his birthday and an election win "will be my gift."

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"I love campaigning. And we have 28 more days," he said. "I love doing rallies, getting on a truck. And it will be the first opportunity to have a face-to-face debate with the current president. So that we can make comparisons between the Brazil he built and the Brazil we built."

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More than 156 million Brazilians are eligible to vote in this year's polarizing election that could profoundly impact one of the world's largest democracies.

Bolsonaro, a 67-year-old retired military officer, has faced widespread criticism in Brazil and abroad for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, his policies on deforestation in the Amazon and his attacks on the country's electoral system -- alleging he could only lose by voter fraud.

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Lula, a former union leader, previously led Brazil through a period of growth as president from 2003 to 2010, during which he introduced social programs to combat poverty in the country.

However, Brazil's Public Ministry opened a sweeping investigation into corruption allegations in 2015 and he was convicted in January 2018 of having had accepted more than $1 million in bribes from the country's Petrobras oil company and collaborated in a money laundering scheme.

That year, Bolsonaro rose to the presidency on campaign promises to fight corruption and develop the nation's economy further.

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Lula was sentenced to 12 years in prison and appealed. He was released in November 2019 when Brazil's federal supreme court ruled that incarcerations with pending appeals were unlawful. His convictions were ultimately nullified last year.

Long lines were reported across Brazil as voters sought to cast their ballots in the contentious election, Brazilian broadcaster Globo reported Sunday. Some voters reported waiting in lines for up to four hours in the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Teresina.

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Bolsonaro's comments on election security have raised concerns of violence and for Brazil's democracy if he were to lose the election.

Brazil's Justice Ministry said Sunday it mobilized 500,000 public security agents to ensure the safety of Brazilians amid the election.

Justice Ministry officials said in a statement that 127 cases of vote buying and election corruption had been recorded since the election campaign began in August. There have also been 18 violations of vote secrecy and 27 occurrences of illegal transportation of voters.

Of those, 25 cases of vote buying allegedly occurred Sunday with 17 violations of vote secrecy and 18 occurrences of illegal transportation of voters.

"Organized crime supports Lula, because Lula represents their interests," Bolsonaro tweeted Sunday. "Honest and hardworking Brazilians are with us, because we represent their values."

Bolsonaro on Saturday touted his friendship with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him in the election.

"To the people of Brazil, you have an opportunity to re-elect a fantastic leader, a fantastic man, one of the great presidents of any country in the world -- President Bolsonaro," Trump said in a video shared by the Brazilian leader.

"He has done an absolutely incredible job with your economy, with your country, he's respected by everyone all throughout the world. So I strongly endorse President Bolsonaro."

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