Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) prepares for the start of a debate with Presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) at the TV Globo studios in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. The second round of the presidential elections will be held Sunday. Photo by Antonio Lacerda/EPA-EFE
Oct. 29 (BP) — Far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva traded blows in a highly charged televised debate in their final meeting before Sunday’s run-off presidential election.
The two frequently talked over each other and refused to answer each others’ questions in an encounter that frequently devolved into accusations of lying, the Spanish news agency EFE reported.
The debate, which was held in the studios of TV Globo, Brazil’s biggest television network, got off to a hostile start when Lula refused Bolsonaro’s request to stand near him during the proceedings.
The incumbent spent a good part of the debate concentrated on accusations of corruption stemming from the challenger’s time as the head of Brazil’s government from 2003 to 2010, while Lula questioned Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused nearly 700,000 deaths in the country, calling him “unhinged” at several points.
The leftist leader also questioned Bolsonaro’s stance on the country’s minimum wage amid rising inflation, citing controversial remarks from Economy Minister Paulo Guedes this week indicating the wage would no longer be raised in tandem with soaring prices, according to Bloomberg.
The fiery encounter came two days before Brazilians head to the polls as the world’s fourth-largest democracy holds a critical presidential election.
Bolsonaro, a Christian nationalist, has faced widespread criticism in Brazil for his policies on deforestation in the Amazon and his attacks on the country’s electoral system as well as his COVID-19 performance.
On Oct. 2, Lula won 48% of the vote in the first round of the election, but fell short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off. Most polls had Lula ahead by double digits, but Bolsonaro still managed to receive 43% of the votes.
The polls tightened after that, but Bolsonaro’s momentum appears to have stalled in recent days. A poll on Monday by IPEC had Lula at 50% and Bolsonaro at 43% with a margin of error of 2 percentage points.