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Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wins Brazil's election

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has yet to speak publicly since his defeat in last night's runoff election. The incumbent far-right populist lost to leftist and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. It was a big defeat for Bolsonaro, whose movement will live on despite his personal political loss. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Portuguese).

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The chanting and partying continued in many neighborhoods in Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, long after election officials called it for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

CLAUDIA MIRANDA: I'm very happy.

KAHN: Thirty-nine-year-old Claudia Miranda says she is elated, relieved, so many emotions.

MIRANDA: I really hate Bolsonaro. So I hope for happy days or best days.

KAHN: Not far from this ecstatic bar scene, 69-year-old Bolsonaro voter Tania Mara was feeling dread. She was standing outside a quiet pizza place.

TANIA MARA: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: She says she trusts Bolsonaro, who isn't a thief or corrupt - taking a shot at da Silva - and says she's worried about placing the improving economy in the president-elect's hands. After a bruising and dirty campaign waged by these two men with very different political persuasions, Brazil is deeply divided. Da Silva won by a little more than 2 million votes, less than two percentage points. Last night, speaking to supporters, he immediately acknowledged the great divide and pledged to be president for all.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "We are capable of building a country for everyone, a Brazil with peace, democracy and opportunity for all," he said. That's going to be a tall order. Da Silva is a skilled, seasoned politician. This will be his third time as president. And he wrangled together a broad coalition including lawmakers and activists to beat Bolsonaro. But Sao Paulo-based political scientist Guilherme Casaroes says Bolsonaro is not going away. He has the backing of 58 million people who voted for him.

GUILHERME CASAROES: If Bolsonaro can mobilize this massive amount of votes, he will be able to serve as the opposition to the Lula administration not only in Congress but also in the streets and in social media.

KAHN: Bolsonaro's party did well in Congress and won many governor's races, making it now the leading political opposition force in the country. That will complicate many of da Silva's promises, including his pledge of zero tolerance for deforestation in the Amazon. Oliver Stuenkel, an international relations expert in Sao Paulo, agrees that Bolsonaro's base isn't going away.

OLIVER STUENKEL: Brazilian democracy has stepped back from the cliff, but it still faces a profound threat from destructive polarization, which will make it very difficult for Lula to govern in the coming years.

(SOUNDBITE OF POPCORN POPPING)

KAHN: On a street in this well-to-do Sao Paulo neighborhood, a popcorn vendor is doing brisk business.

CECILIA CORREIA: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: Voter Cecilia Correia says everyone is in informational bubbles these days and don't communicate with those who don't agree with them. She lives that at home. She voted for da Silva. Her husband, Henrique Garcia, voted for Bolsonaro.

HENRIQUE GARCIA: (Speaking Portuguese, laughter).

KAHN: But he says they live democratically and respectfully together. Many hope Brazil can do the same. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Sao Paulo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.