Tense Debate Wraps Up Lula, Bolsonaro Race

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(Newser)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made their final appeals for support ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff vote following an acrimonious face-to-face debate. The right-wing Bolsonaro took part in a motorcycle rally Saturday in Belo Horizonte, capital of a state that generally winds up backing the winner and where he finished second to his leftist competitor in the initial round of voting, the AP reports. Da Silva supporters rallied in the country’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, where Simone Tebet—a center-right candidate who finished third in the first round—pushed a da Silva victory in the runoff.

The appearances followed a combative Friday night debate on Globo TV that centered on the economy—an issue that could sway some of the few voters still undecided. Da Silva, who leads in opinion polls and is trying to reclaim the job he held from 2003 to 2010, once more pledged to boost spending on the poor, though he did not outline a clear plan on how to do that. He also said that due to inflation, the minimum wage is now worth less than when Bolsonaro was inaugurated. Bolsonaro quickly promised to lift the minimum wage from $229 a month to $265 next year, though that wasn’t included in the budget proposal he sent to Congress. He said that the economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented a minimum wage boost, but that the economy was improving.

“We did better than you would have done,” the president said to da Silva. “We are ready to take off. We have one of the world’s best economies now.” Mario Sérgio Lima, a senior Brazil analyst for Medley Global Advisors, said the final debate probably would not sway many voters. “Bolsonaro needed to score a big win. … He didn’t do very well among focus groups of undecided voters nor in online mentions,” Lima said. Bolsonaro, who at one point said, “The whole system is against me,” appeared rattled at times. The tensest moment was when Bolsonaro called da Silva to stand next to him as he answered a question. “Stay here, Luiz,” the president said. The former president shot back, “I don’t want to be anywhere near you,” then turned his back.

(Read more Brazil election stories.)

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