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Neymar Endorses Bolsonaro as Incumbent Battles Lula in Historic Brazil Election

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Brazilian football star Neymar has come out in support of President Jair Bolsonaro, as the incumbent leader faces a re-election battle against his leftist rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

On Thursday, the 30-year-old footballer posted a video on TikTok — where he has over eight million followers — of himself bopping to a pro-Bolsonaro campaign song, a big grin on his face.

He used his fingers to flash the number 22 — the candidate number of Bolsonaro in his election showdown against leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is leading in the polls.

“Vote, vote, and press ‘confirm’ for 22, that’s Bolsonaro,” goes the song, a reference to Brazil’s electronic voting machines — which the president alleges, without evidence, are plagued by fraud.

Bolsonaro wasted no time retweeting the Neymar seal of approval.

Brazilians began voting on Sunday in a highly polarized election that could determine if the country returns a leftist to the helm of the world’s fourth-largest democracy or keeps the far-right incumbent in office for another four years.

The race pits incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro against his political nemesis, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

There are nine other candidates, but their support pales to that for Bolsonaro and da Silva. Voting stations opened at 1100 GMT (7 a.m. EDT; 8 a.m. Brasilia time).

Recent opinion polls have given da Silva a commanding lead — the last Datafolha survey published Saturday found that 50% of respondents who intend to vote for a candidate said they would vote for da Silva, against 36% for Bolsonaro.

The polling institute interviewed 12,800 people, with a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

There is a chance da Silva could win in the first round, without need for a run-off on Oct. 30. For that to happen, he would need more than 50% of valid votes, which exclude spoiled and blank ballots.

Brazil has more than 150 million eligible voters, and voting is mandatory, but abstention rates can reach as high as 20%.

The two frontrunners have key bases of support: evangelicals and white men for Bolsonaro, and women, minorities and the poor for da Silva.

Da Silva, 76, will vote in Sao Paulo state, where he was once a metalworker and union leader. He rose from poverty to the presidency and is credited with building an extensive social welfare program during his 2003-2010 tenure that helped lift tens of millions into the middle class.

But he is also remembered for his administration’s involvement in vast corruption scandals that entangled politicians and business executives.

Bolsonaro, who will vote in Rio de Janeiro, grew up in a modest family before joining the army. He eventually turned to politics after being forced out of the military for openly pushing to raise servicemen’s pays.

During his seven terms as a fringe lawmaker in Congress’ lower house, he regularly expressed nostalgia for the country’s two-decade military dictatorship.

His overtures to the armed forces have raised concern that his possible rejection of election results could be backed by top brass.

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