To partisans across a stark political divide, Brazil's upcoming election is nothing less than a battle for the future of democracy in South America's largest nation. .
With anti-incumbency running high and Lula ahead in the polls, Brazil could become the latest Latin American country to shift to the political left, following recent elections in Colombia, Chile, Honduras and others.
He has also said he might not accept the results of the election, unless the computerized system used by Brazilian authorities is replaced by printed ballots. .
In this election, Lula has attempted to portray himself as politically moderate; a safe pair of hands who can revive Brazil's economy and international reputation, while respecting the country's democratic institutions. .
"In 2018, Bolsonaro presented himself as the anti-system, anti-corruption candidate; the one who wouldn't make deals with corrupt politicians," said Jill Hedges, senior Latin America analyst at the consultancy Oxford Analytica
"Our battle is a fight between good and evil," Bolsonaro told hundreds of thousands of cheering partisans gathered in Rio de Janeiro on Brazil's Independence Day earlier this month
Brazil emerged from more than 20 years of military rule in 1985, and Bolsonaro has expressed fondness for authoritarianism, calling members of the junta who tortured dissidents in the 1960s and 70s "heroes" and arguing that Cold War-era dictatorships across South America "pacified" the region.
Condemned by human rights groups, the president's tough talk has garnered widespread support from rank-and-file members of Brazil's military, said Hedges
A study from the Brazilian Public Security Forum, a non-partisan research group, found that more than half of the country's military police, responsible for street-level crime fighting, actively participated in pro-Bolsonaro social media groups in 2021, an increase from the previous year.
The country has more than 400,000 military police officers, meaning that based on the study, at least 200,000 heavily armed people are actively backing Bolsonaro
In Brazil's 2018 vote, analysts said Bolsonaro beat a candidate from Lula's Workers' Party, based on support from two key demographics: middle class residents of smaller towns in the country's heartland and wealthier southeast, and working class residents living in poorer areas on the outskirts of big cities, who historically backed the political left
Winning back working class suburban voters and swaying moderates in the southeast will be key if Lula is to return to Brazil's Palácio da Alvorada, said Richmond, of the London School of Economics
Regardless of who wins next month, Bolsonaro has altered Brazil's longstanding political dynamics, said Richmond, consolidating a far-right movement which will probably outlast his time in office.