October 4, 2018 / 9:57 PM / 11 days ago

Poll shows Bolsonaro in lead before Brazil's Sunday presidential vote

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro took a commanding first-round lead, according to a Datafolha poll released Thursday, though he is still short of votes to win the election outright this weekend and avoid a runoff vote.

Presidential candidates pose ahead of a televised debate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

The poll found Bolsonaro had 35 percent support, a 3 percentage point jump since Tuesday. His nearest rival, Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers Party, stood at 22 percent. The pair remain deadlocked in a possible runoff vote, Datafolha said.

Brazilian electoral workers seal electronic ballot boxes in Manaus, Brazil October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

The poll showed Bolsonaro has 39 percent of the valid votes, 11 points short of a majority needed for a first-round victory. Failing that, the two top vote-getters will face off on Oct. 28.

Brazil’s most divisive election in decades will officially come to a close with a televised debate Thursday night. The first-round vote takes place on Sunday.

Bolsonaro has been unable to campaign, aside from postings on social media, since suffering a brutal stabbing during a rally a month ago. On medical advice, he said he will not take part in Thursday night’s debate.

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Nonetheless, support for Bolsonaro has surged in recent days - with some observers saying he could even win the presidency in the first-round ballot, with the left-leaning vote split between Haddad and a clutch of other candidates.

In a last push on Thursday, Bolsonaro told a radio station in northeastern Brazil, where his support is weakest and Haddad’s is the strongest, that he would put the army to work to help finish some major infrastructure projects long stalled in the region, and said his presidency would invite partners from all parties, including the PT.

“We want to decentralize government revenues and send them to the states, where governors and mayors know best how to apply resources locally,” he said.

Haddad’s campaign hit hard at Bolsonaro on Thursday, using the last day of TV advertising to compare the former army captain, who has long praised Brazil’s 1964-85 dictatorship, to Adolph Hitler. The adverts showed clips of Bolsonaro’s more incendiary statements next to footage of the former German leader.

Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Leslie Adler

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