The elections include races for mayor of Brazil’s two largest cities and come as the coronavirus continues to rage.
Brazilians in 57 municipalities are heading to the polls to vote in runoff local elections, including for the mayors of Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro, the country’s two largest cities.
Sunday’s polls, which come following a first round of voting on November 15, will be the last time the country votes before right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is up for re-election in 2022.
While analysts have warned against viewing the local elections – which involve some 500,000 city council candidates and 19,000 mayoral candidates in more than 5,570 municipalities – as a referendum on Bolsonaro, they have said the vote indicates the direction the country is heading.
The first round of voting saw few candidates backed by the populist leader – dubbed the “Tropical Trump” – advance. Of the almost 60 candidates Bolsonaro endorsed, only nine moved forward, according to a tally by the newspaper O Estado de S Paulo. Mayoral candidates backed by Bolsonaro did not advance in Sao Paulo but did move forward in Rio De Janeiro.
Bolsonaro has downplayed the raging coronavirus pandemic as a “little flu”, and has faced criticism for his handling of the outbreak, which has often put him at odds with local officials.
As voting began in Brazil, Bolsonaro on Sunday pushed unfounded claims that the recent United States presidential election was marred by fraud. Bolsonaro said he would continue to be one of the few world leaders to not yet recognise President-elect Joe Biden as the next president of the US.
“I have my sources of information that there really was a lot of fraud there,” Bolsonaro said. “Nobody talks about that. If it was enough to define (victory) for one or the other, I don’t know.”
Asked if he would recognise Biden’s victory, he said, “I am holding back a little more.”
The Brazilian president also expressed doubts about Brazil’s current electronic voting system, which he has suggested is vulnerable to fraud. He has urged the country to go back to a paper ballot system for the 2022 presidential election.
Sunday’s vote, which comes after the elections were initially delayed for six weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak, takes place as infections continue to rage in Brazil, which has confirmed the third-most cases in the world and the second-most deaths since the pandemic began.
More than 6.2 million cases have been confirmed in the country with 172,500 deaths.
Authorities have urged voters to bring their own pens, respect social distancing guidelines and disinfect their hands multiple times.
On Friday, Sao Paulo mayoral candidate Guilherme Boulos, a left-wing contender who is challenging centrist incumbent Bruno Covas, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Boulos, 38, who is running for the upstart Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), trails in the polls by about 10 points. However, the young and charismatic candidate is seen as having momentum and has been called the new face of the Brazilian left.
His infection forced the cancellation of the candidates’ final debate.
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second city, opinion polls indicate incumbent Mayor Marcelo Crivella, an Evangelical pastor and Bolsonaro ally, is set to lose in a landslide to ex-mayor Eduardo Paes of the traditional right-wing Democrats party (DEM).