Brazil votes in tense Lula-Bolsonaro presidential contest

Brazilians are voting on Sunday in the first round of their country’s most polarized election in decades, with leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva favored to beat right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

Most polls have shown Lula with a solid lead for months, but Bolsonaro signaled he may refuse to accept defeat, stoking fears of institutional crisis or post-election violence.

A message projected on Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue ahead of the vote read: “Peace in the Elections.”

Most opinion surveys favor Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2010, by 10-15 percentage points. If he wins more than 50% of valid votes, which several pollsters show within reach, that would clinch an outright victory, foregoing a second-round vote.

A winner could be announced within hours after polling stations close at 5 p.m. Brasilia time (2000 GMT).

If no candidate wins more than half of the votes, excluding blank and spoiled ballots, the top two finishers go to an Oct. 30 run-off, prolonging the tense campaign season.

Bolsonaro has threatened to contest the result of the vote, after making baseless allegations of fraud, accusing electoral authorities of plotting against him and suggesting the military should conduct a parallel tally, which they declined to do.

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