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  30 Sep 2022, 11:59

Bolsonaro, Lula in attack mode in last Brazil presidential debate

RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 30, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro
and leftist front-runner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva traded heated attacks
Thursday in a final debate three days from Brazil's presidential election,
accusing each other of corruption, nepotism and lying.

Trailing in the polls ahead of Sunday's polarizing vote, Bolsonaro wasted no
time going for the jugular, calling Lula a "liar, ex-inmate and traitor."

Seeking to deliver a knockout punch and win the election in the first round,
Lula, the charismatic but tarnished ex-president who led Brazil from 2003 to
2010, responded in kind.

"It's ugly for the president of the republic to blatantly lie all the time...
That's why the people are going to send you packing," the ex-metalworker said
in his trademark gravelly voice.

He told Bolsonaro to "look in the mirror" if he wanted to see corruption,
citing graft allegations against the president's senator son Flavio and ex-
education minister, accused of demanding kickbacks for influential
evangelical churches.

The moderator, journalist William Bonner, reprimanded both candidates for
failing to respect the ground rules, and had his work cut out for him in an
unruly, heated debate that also featured five other candidates trailing far
behind in the polls.

AFP fact-checkers identified numerous falsehoods in the candidates'
statements, such as when Bolsonaro tried to fend off accusations he dragged
his feet on purchasing Covid-19 vaccines.

"No country in the world purchased vaccines in 2020," he said.

In reality, millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered around
the world that year.

Earlier Thursday, a poll by the Datafolha institute showed Lula maintaining a
14-point lead over Bolsonaro, 48 percent to 34 percent.

Excluding voters who said they planned to cast blank or spoiled ballots,
Lula's support reached 50 percent.

That put him on the cusp of the score needed to win outright and avoid a
runoff on October 30: 50 percent of valid votes, plus one.

Bolsonaro, who is fond of saying the only reliable polls are "on the street"
-- where the 67-year-old incumbent regularly rallies his die-hard supporters
en masse -- is counting on his evangelical and business-centric base to pull
through.

Lula -- who presided over an economic boom, leaving office with an
unprecedented approval rating of 87 percent -- is meanwhile appealing to
poor, minority and anti-Bolsonaro voters.

The 76-year-old is seeking a remarkable political comeback just four years
after being jailed on controversial corruption convictions stemming from a
massive scandal centered on state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Freed pending appeal in 2019 after 18 months behind bars, Lula regained his
eligibility to run for office when the Supreme Court annulled his convictions
last year, finding the lead judge in the case was biased.

- 'Can change the picture' -

The late-night debate on TV Globo, the most-watched broadcaster in Brazil,
was the last chance for candidates to sway undecided voters.

Bolsonaro's camp had said he would come out swinging, attacking Lula on the
corruption issue and pressing home his conservative values on issues of
religion and abortion.

"This is the debate that can change the picture," a Bolsonaro campaign member
told AFP on condition of anonymity.

After the first debate, a month ago, Lula was criticized for seemingly
evading the corruption question. He opted not to take part in another debate,
last Saturday.

Lula has urged Brazilians loyal to any of the minority candidates to rather
cast a "tactical" vote for him, and against Bolsonaro.

The incumbent president got a celebrity boost Thursday for his re-election
bid from football superstar Neymar, who posted a video on TikTok of himself
dancing to a pro-Bolsonaro campaign song.

Grinning, the Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil striker, arguably Brazil's most
famous celebrity, flashed the number 22 with his fingers -- Bolsonaro's
candidate number -- as he rocked out to the electronic dance jingle.

The broadcast election campaign in Brazil ends at midnight on Thursday,
although in-person events and distribution of election material will be
allowed until Saturday night.

Datafolha will bring out another, final poll on Saturday, the eve of the
first round.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly hinted he would challenge a Lula victory, saying
last weekend: "We are the majority. We will win in the first round."

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