October 6, 2018 / 6:17 AM / a month ago

Brazil's Bolsonaro surges ahead of Sunday vote, but run-off likely

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro has increased his lead over leftist Fernando Haddad on the eve of Sunday’s divisive presidential election, but they are deadlocked in a likely run-off vote on Oct. 28, two polls showed on Saturday.

The most polarized election since the end of military rule in 1985 pits Bolsonaro, a former Army captain running on a law-and-order and anti-corruption platform, against Haddad of the Workers Party (PT).

Bolsonaro rose four points to 36 percent in three days, while Haddad dropped one point to 22 percent, the Ibope polling firm said in a survey aired on TV Globo. The Datafolha firm had Bolsonaro up one point at 36 percent and Haddad unchanged at 22 percent since a previous survey two days ago.

Both the Ibope and Datafolha polls showed Bolsonaro and Haddad statistically tied in a run-off vote, required if no candidate takes a majority on Sunday.

Haddad’s support relies on the popularity of his mentor, jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was barred from running due to a corruption conviction.

Haddad on Saturday campaigned in the northeastern state of Bahia, Lula’s political heartland, where the 55-year-old recorded a video message alongside the state’s Workers Party Governor Rui Costa, urging his supporters to be wary of the political messages they receive via social media.

“A lot of lies on the internet,” he said. “The other side is a bit desperate, because they think that if Bolsonaro is forced to debate, he will melt. So they want Bolsonaro to win without having to debate, which is bad for democracy.”

About 26 percent of voters say they have yet to decide for whom they will vote, according to a Datafolha poll released on Thursday. That figure was not released for Saturday’s poll.

“We will accept the result whatever it is - there should be no doubt of that,” Bolsonaro said on Friday, in a bid to calm fears he would call for a military coup if he lost.

Bolsonaro, who is backed by a group of retired generals, said last week he would only accept victory and that if he lost it would be because the PT had manipulated Brazil’s electronic voting system.

A Bolsonaro government would speed up the privatization of state companies to reduce Brazil’s budget deficit and relax environmental controls for farming and mining. It would also block efforts to legalize abortion, drugs and gay marriage.

In an interview published on Friday by the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo, one of the candidate’s top economic advisers said Bolsonaro would push ahead with privatising state power firm Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA, or Eletrobras.

Slideshow (20 Images)

However, former army General Oswaldo de Jesus Ferreira pledged to keep state oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, in government hands.

Hydroelectric dam projects on the Tapajos river in the Amazon basin that were stopped due to environmental concerns would be discussed again, Ferreira said.

But he said the expansion of soy, corn and sugar cane plantations would not be allowed in the Amazon region, where environmentalists say deforestation is on the rise again.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo; Editing by Gabriel Stargardter, Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler

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