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Far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and his left-leaning challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have officially launched their campaigns for Brazil's most polarized presidential election in decades.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (left) and Jair Bolsonaro traded insults on the opening day of the election campaign
Brazil's presidential election campaign officially began on Tuesday with ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leading incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in opinion polls. Observers call the campaign the most polarized in decades.
Bolsonaro, a nationalist populist backed by Christian conservatives, launched his campaign with a rally in Juiz de Fora, the small southeastern city where an attacker stabbed and nearly killed him during his 2018 campaign.
"This is where I was reborn... This is where the creator saved my life so I could give my best for our nation as president," an emotional Bolsonaro told cheering supporters.
Bolsonaro spoke about Christianity and family values, acknowledging Brazil's "serious problems". He also warned that his opponent's return would be a "step backwards" and usher in "communism" and "gender ideology."
"Our country doesn't want corruption anymore, it wants order and prosperity," Bolsonaro said. His supporters interrupted his speech chanting "Lula thief."
Lula— a two-time president of the country — who was jailed for corruption until his convictions were annulled, kicked off his campaign with a visit to a Volkswagen car factory outside Sao Paulo where he launched his political career as a union leader in the 1970s.
"I'm returning so we can take our country back," he said in a fiery speech.
Lula called Bolsonaro a "bogus, genocidal president," and condemned the "lies" he said the incumbent's camp was spreading about him.
In a video posted on social media early on Tuesday, he also said hunger had returned to Brazil under Bolsonaro and inflation was hitting families who cannot survive on minimum wages.
In most opinion polls for the October 2 vote, Lula has a double-digit lead over Bolsonaro, and both frontrunners are well ahead of the other 10 candidates.
A Monday poll by IPEC showed that 44% of voters support Lula in the first round while 32% support Bolsonaro. In a runoff, Lula would be elected with 51% of the vote versus Bolsonaro's 35%.
However, Bolsonaro has managed to narrow Lula's lead in recent weeks by increasing social spending for poor Brazilians as well as urging state-controlled oil company Petrobras to cut fuel prices, a key driver of inflation.
Many Brazilians fear that should Bolsonaro lose, he could follow in the footsteps former US President Donald Trump, and try to fight the outcome.
Bolsonaro has previously cast unfounded doubts about the nation's electronic voting system. And last year, he declared before tens of thousands of supporters that only God can remove him from power.
dh/kb (AP, AFP, Reuters)