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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 02:28 GMT
Victory for Lula in Brazil election
Supporters of Lula dance in the streets of Sao Paolo following the elections
Lula's supporters have begun their celebrations
The left-wing candidate in Brazil's presidential election, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has won a convincing victory in Sunday's run-off.

Lula on the campaign trail
Lula has reached out to all sectors of the Brazilian political life
His government-backed opponent, Jose Serra, telephoned "Lula" - as he is known in Brazil - to congratulate him on the election results and to wish him well, one of Mr Serra's aides said.

"I wish the winner good luck in leading the destiny of Brazil," Mr Serra said later on Brazilian national television.

With more than 90% of votes now counted, Lula has 61%.

The US Government has also offered its congratulations, with White House spokesman Ari Fleischer saying the US president "looked forward to working productively with Brazil".

Minutes after the polls closed, hundreds of Lula's supporters gathered in the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, waving flags to celebrate.

National interest

Feverish national interest in what is seen as one of Brazil's most groundbreaking elections saw many voters queuing before polling stations opened.

Lula addresses a crowd in 1982
Lula in more radical, scruffier days

Lula campaigned on a platform of profound social change in a country where a growing gap between rich and poor has been blamed on IMF-backed economic policies, according to the BBC's Peter Greste in Sao Paulo.

A former factory worker who founded the Workers Party, Lula, 57, has recently moved closer to the political centre and dropped the anti-capitalist rhetoric that marked his three previous presidential bids.

But Lula has also sought to reach out to the financial community, who initially reacted negatively to his candidacy.

His choice of industrialist Jose Alencar of the centre-right Liberal Party as a running mate sent a strong message to the Brazilian business community, which has gradually warmed to the former trade unionist.

Modest beginnings

Lula - who campaigned in 1989 on a promise to default - is now saying financial agreements would be respected and monetary stability maintained.

Even his appearance is more polished: he is wearing suits, has trimmed his beard, and had his teeth redone for a more photogenic look.

It is a far cry from his modest beginnings, born of impoverished parents in the depressed north east of Brazil, he got his first job at 14 before becoming a trade unionist and strike leader.

He soon came to symbolise opposition to the military dictatorship in the 1970s and early 1980s.

He founded the Worker's Party in 1980.

Track record

Government candidate Jose Serra
Serra: Campaign criticised for "aggressive tactics"
Our correspondent says that from the outset, Mr Serra had everything to lose in this election - official government support, administrative brilliance, a wealth of experience and widespread backing from the business elite.

But with a country apparently fed up with the status quo and ripe for change, it has been a perception that seems to have worked against him, and his grey demeanour has not helped.

Even Mr Serra has acknowledged as much, joking at the beginning of the campaign that at least his mother would vote for him.

And his critics have accused him of botching the election campaign by using aggressive tactics that seem to have divided even his own natural supporters.

The BBC's Tom Gibb
"He's managed to tap into an overwhelming desire for change"

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See also:

28 Oct 02 | Americas
26 Oct 02 | Media reports
25 Oct 02 | Media reports
24 Oct 02 | Business
09 Oct 02 | Americas
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