Elected president for the leftist Workers Party (PT) Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks after winning the presidential run-off election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Oct 30, 2022. (NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)

BRASILIA – Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers' Party (PT) won the second round of presidential elections on Sunday and is going to serve a four-year term beginning on Jan 1, 2023.

According to figures released by the Superior Electoral Tribunal, Lula da Silva obtained 59.8 million votes, or 50.86 percent of the vote, surpassing current President Jair Bolsonaro of the Liberal Party (PL), who received 57.8 million votes, or 49.14 percent.

Lula da Silva focused his campaign on social issues, making pledges including minimum wage increases, strengthening of state-owned companies, and efforts against hunger and poverty

This is the smallest difference in a second-round presidential election in Brazil's history.

In the first round held on Oct 2, Lula obtained 48.3 percent of the vote, compared to 43.2 percent received by Bolsonaro.

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Lula focused his campaign on social issues, making pledges including minimum wage increases, strengthening of state-owned companies, and efforts against hunger and poverty.

In a speech on Sunday night, Lula said he would unite a divided country and ensure that Brazilians "put down arms that never should have been taken up," while inviting international cooperation to preserve the Amazon rainforest.

"I will govern for 215 million Brazilians, and not just for those who voted for me," Lula da said at his campaign headquarters. "There are not two Brazils. We are one country, one people, one great nation."

Lula arrived at a rally in Sao Paulo shortly after 8:00 pm (1100 GMT), waving from the sunroof of a car. Ecstatic supporters near Paulista Avenue waited for him, chanting slogans and drinking champagne.

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Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin and campaign aides jumped up and down chanting, "It's time Jair, it's time to leave already," in a video circulating on social media.

Bolsonaro, 67, who for years has made baseless claims that Brazil's voting system is prone to fraud, remained silent initially about the result. Last year, he openly discussed refusing to accept the results of the vote.

Supporters of Brazilian President and re-election candidate Jair Bolsonaro react after their candidate lost the presidential runoff election in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Oct 30, 2022. (ANDRE BORGES / AFP)

Electoral authorities are bracing for him to dispute the outcome, sources told Reuters, and made security preparations in case his supporters stage protests. Two hours after electoral authorities declared Lula the winner, Bolsonaro and his campaign had made no public statements about the outcome.

US President Joe Biden congratulated Lula for winning "free, fair and credible elections," joining a chorus of compliments from European and Latin American leaders.

His victory consolidates a new "pink tide" in Latin America, after landmark leftist victories in Colombia and Chile's elections, echoing a regional political shift two decades ago that introduced Lula to the world stage.

Lula has vowed a return to state-driven economic growth and social policies that helped lift millions out of poverty when he was previously president from 2003 to 2010. He also promises to combat destruction of the Amazon rainforest, now at a 15-year high, and make Brazil a leader in global climate talks.

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 "These were four years of hatred, of negation of science," Ana Valeria Doria, 60, a doctor in Rio de Janeiro who celebrated with a drink. "It won't be easy for Lula to manage the division in this country. But for now it's pure happiness."

A former union leader born into poverty, Lula organized strikes against Brazil's military government in the 1970s. His two-term presidency was marked by a commodity-driven economic boom and he left office with record popularity.

However, his Workers Party was later tarred by a deep recession and a record-breaking corruption scandal that jailed him for 19 months on bribery convictions, which were overturned by the Supreme Court last year.

In his third term, Lula will confront a sluggish economy, tighter budget constraints and a more hostile legislature. Bolsonaro's allies form the largest bloc in Congress after this month's general election revealed the enduring strength of his conservative coalition.