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Brazil has another month of campaigning after presidential election goes to runoff

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro has shown he is still a significant power to be reckoned with after this weekend's election. He came in second, a close second to former president and leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. That triggered a runoff. The outcome far exceeded expectations pollsters had for Bolsonaro, as NPR South America correspondent Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: For weeks, pollsters in Brazil predicted that the current president, an outspoken nationalist, would suffer a double digit loss. But Jair Bolsonaro told supporters from the yard of his Brasilia residence they got it wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JAIR BOLSONARO: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "We beat the lies today," he said. "They only thought we'd get about 30% of the vote, but we beat them," he added. Bolsonaro garnered 43% to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's 48%. Sao Paulo-based political scientist Guilherme Casaroces says pollsters had a tough time gauging conservative voters, who may have just changed their votes on Election Day.

GUILHERME CASAROCES: Bolsonaro has successfully defeated this narrative of electoral fraud and pollsters are fake news. So there might have been people who just refused to answer pollsters.

KAHN: Bolsonaro and his party picked up big wins in Congress, too. He's gained a loyal base of conservative supporters, which is very high among evangelicals, like many at the Assembly of God Church in the Tijuca area of Rio.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #1: (Singing in non-English language).

KAHN: Fifty-nine-year-old retiree Jose Jorge likes Bolsonaro's commitment to family values.

JOSE JORGE: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "Bolsonaro is more aligned with our principles," he says. "God willing, he will win."

(SOUNDBITE OF BROOM SWEEPING)

KAHN: But for 68-year-old street cleaner Luis Carlos, sweeping up mounds of discarded political trash in front of the church, life under Bolsonaro has been tough.

LUIS CARLOS: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "When da Silva was president, I was able to put food on the table and buy a home," he said. During his term, da Silva expanded government spending and lifted more than 20 million people out of poverty. After leaving office, though, he was jailed on corruption charges which were later annulled. Luiz Carlos can't imagine another Bolsonaro term.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #2: (Singing in non-English language).

KAHN: Neither can the hundreds who came to a da Silva victory party in downtown Rio. Renata Carvalho, a 29-year-old book publisher, said everyone is stunned and sad.

RENATA CARVALHO: Feeling nervous and sad but hopeful.

KAHN: Nervous, she says, about the next four weeks of tense and intense campaigning in the very polarized Brazil, yet hopeful da Silva wins the October 30 runoff. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
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