Deeply divided, Brazilians abroad join long queues to vote in tense presidential runoff

LISBON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian Ieda Ferreira woke up at the crack of dawn to join a long queue in Portugal's capital Lisbon, her home for the past five years, to vote in her country's presidential runoff. Brazil, she said, was more divided than ever.

"Brazil has become very polarised," said the 46-year-old, who wore all red, the colour of Brazil's leftist Workers Party led by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. "The government in power ... preaches hate and violence."

Ferreira is one of tens of thousands in Lisbon, the city with the largest number of Brazilian voters outside the South American nation, queuing to cast their ballots in a tense race between Lula and Jair Bolsonaro.

Nearly 81,000 Brazilians in Portugal are eligible to vote, with more than half registered in Lisbon, according to consulate data. Videos on social media also showed long queues in London, Paris and Madrid.

The queue to vote in Lisbon snaked around the city's law university, with divisions between voters on display.

Some wore t-shirts with Lula's name and face on it while others wore Brazil's yellow and green football jersey, which has become a symbol of those backing Bolsonaro.

Antonio Coelho, 80, wore a green shirt and a yellow vest and said although he believed the result would be "very tight", Bolsonaro would still win.

"It's important for him (Bolsonaro) to win because we don't want a person who robbed the whole country, like Lula, as president," Coelho said.

Lula was jailed in 2018 for 19 months on bribery convictions that the Supreme Court overturned last year.

Several polls showed the race between them tightening in the final week, with Bolsonaro eroding a slight lead for Lula. Others show a small but steady advantage for Lula.

Another Bolsonaro supporter, 65-year-old dentist Waldir Rodrigues, said the far-right candidate "represented the best of Brazil".

But while for some Bolsonaro is the only option, his past racist and homophobic remarks were also the reason why others have left Brazil since he was elected.

"I didn't want to live in a country ruled by Bolsonaro," said 38-year-old Gabriel Freitas as he held a rainbow flag. "I'm gay. I was in Rio (de Janeiro), it was dangerous and I decided it was better not to stay.

"I don't want to go back... but my dad is still there and I want people in Brazil to live in love, not hate."

Reporting by Catarina Demony, Miguel Pereira and Pedro Nunes; Editing by Philippa Fletcher

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Thomson Reuters

Portugal-based multimedia correspondent reporting on politics, economics, the environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK., co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese-speakers living in London, and edited a youth-led news site.