While the election is over, there remains the concern for the health of one of the world’s biggest democracies. President Jair Bolsonaro has spent years attacking Brazil’s democratic institutions, including a sustained effort to undermine its voting system, leading millions of Brazilians to lose faith in the integrity of their nation’s elections.
Now, much of the country is wondering: Will he accept his defeat?
Sunday’s vote split this country of 217 million people nearly down the middle, with many voters on each side viewing the choice as an existential one for the nation.
Yet in the aftermath of the vote that ousted Mr. Bolsonaro after just one term, there was little immediate sign that the president’s allies and supporters would mount an effort to dispute the results.
Far-right lawmakers who had warned of fraud in the past immediately recognized Mr. da Silva as the president-elect. Prominent conservative pundits called Mr. da Silva an ex-convict and corrupt, but did not claim the election was rigged. And many of Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, while shouting about fraud in general, cleared out of a gathering outside the president’s condo in Rio de Janeiro to return to their homes dejected.
As of 11 p.m. local time, Mr. Bolsonaro had yet to concede or publicly address the country.
The close race, high stakes and deep polarization led to an ugly election campaign. Misinformation has soared in recent weeks, with supporters of Mr. da Silva accusing Mr. Bolsonaro of being a cannibal and a pedophile, while Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters have called Mr. da Silva a gang leader, a communist and a Satanist who wants to close the nation’s churches.
Election officials tried to intervene, ordering posts and videos off the internet that they said were false. Those efforts slowed the deluge of misleading information, but they also became their own controversy, drawing a swell of complaints of unfair refereeing, particularly from Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies.
Last year, Mr. Bolsonaro told his supporters there were only three outcomes to the election: He wins, he is killed or he is arrested. He then added, “Tell the bastards I’ll never be arrested.”
That sort of rhetoric raised alarms that Mr. Bolsonaro would not accept the results. He was one of the last world leaders to recognize President Biden’s victory in 2020, repeating former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen, including just two days before his first meeting with Mr. Biden earlier this year.
There is no credible evidence of fraud in Brazil’s electronic voting machines since they were introduced in 1996. Yet Mr. Bolsonaro has questioned the system for years.
Earlier this year, his criticism of the system took on new gravity when Brazil’s military joined in. Leaders of the armed forces pushed election officials for changes to the system, rattling a country that suffered under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
But eventually military and election officials agreed to a change to some tests of the voting machines on Election Day, and military leaders have since suggested they are satisfied with the system’s security.
In recent weeks, military leaders also said privately that they would not support any efforts by Mr. Bolsonaro to challenge the results.
On Friday, in an interview after the final debate, Mr. Bolsonaro was asked directly whether he would accept the vote’s results, regardless of outcome.
“There’s no doubt,” he said. “Whoever gets more votes, takes it. That’s democracy.”
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