BRAZILIANS delivered a very tight victory to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a bitter presidential election, giving the former leftist president another shot at power. 

The victory marked a rejection of incumbent Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right politics.

Da Silva received 50.9% of the vote and Bolsonaro 49.1%, according to the official statistics. 

Yet hours after the results were in and as congratulations poured in from leaders across the globe, Bolsonaro had yet to publicly concede or react in any way. 

His campaign had made repeated claims of possible electoral manipulation before the vote which raised fears he would not accept defeat and attempt to challenge the results. 

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For da Silva, the high-stakes election marked a stunning comeback. His imprisonment for corruption sidelined him from the 2018 election won by Bolsonaro who has used the presidency to promote conservative social values while also delivery incendiary speeches and testing democratic institutions. 

Da Silva said in a speech: “Today the only winner is the Brazilian people. It’s the victory of a democratic movement that formed above political parties, personal interests and ideologies so that democracy came out victorious.”

He is promising to govern beyond his party and says he wants to bring in centrists and even some leaning to the right in a bid to restore the prosperity the country seen when he last served as president from 2003-2010. 

This was the country’s tightest election since its return to democracy in 1985 and the first time that a sitting president failed to win re-election. 

Just over two million votes separate the candidates – the previous closest race, in 2014, was decided by a margin of around 3.5 million votes. 

The SNP’s John Nicolson was among those to offer congratulations to da Silva on his social media. 

He said: “Lula has won. A cause for huge celebration amidst all the grim news worldwide. #LulaPresidente2022 #LulaPresidente1313.”

In a separate post, the MP added: “Most moving speech from #LulaPresidente2022 pledging to end deforestation. 

“He spoke of the poor, native Americans, underdeveloped countries, the #LGBT community and all of those in Brazil for whom he offers hope.”

Elsewhere, Pete Wishart said the result was "fantastic news not just for Brazil but for the whole world". 

US President Joe Biden highlighted Brazil’s “free, fair, and credible elections” in a statement while the EU also commended the electoral authority for its effectiveness and transparency throughout the campaign. 

Bolsonaro’s administration has been widely criticised for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the worst deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in 15 years.

But he has built a devoted base by presenting himself as protection from leftist policies that he says infringe on personal liberties while producing economic turmoil and moral rot. He sought to shore up support in an election year with vast government spending.

“We did not face an opponent, a candidate. We faced the machine of the Brazilian state put at his service so we could not win the election,” da Silva told the crowd in Sao Paulo.

Da Silva built an extensive social welfare programme during his tenure at president that helped lift tens of millions into the middle class. The man universally known as Lula left office with an approval rating above 80%, prompting then US president Barack Obama to call him “the most popular politician on Earth”.

But he is also remembered for his administration’s involvement in vast corruption revealed by sprawling investigations.

Da Silva was jailed for 580 days for corruption and money laundering. His convictions were later annulled by Brazil’s top court, which ruled the presiding judge had been biased and colluded with prosecutors. That enabled da Silva to run for president for the sixth time.

He has pledged to boost spending on the poor, re-establish relationships with foreign governments and take bold action to eliminate illegal clear-cutting in the Amazon rainforest.

“We will once again monitor and do surveillance in the Amazon. We will fight every illegal activity,” da Silva said in his speech. “At the same time, we will promote sustainable development of communities in the Amazon.”