Brazil is tense ahead of the Oct. 2 vote, as polls show the former leftist leader ahead of incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has widened his lead over incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, a week ahead of the most divisive presidential election in Brazilian history.

A Genial/Quest poll released Wednesday showed Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2010, with a 13-percentage-point lead over his far-right rival.

Recent polls suggest the former leftist leader could defeat Bolsonaro in the first round of voting on Sunday.

The poll put Lula at 46 percent in the first round, compared with 33 percent for Bolsonaro — up from 44 percent for Lula and 34 percent for Bolsonaro a week earlier.

In a possible runoff on Oct. 30, Lula’s lead jumped to a 14-point advantage, up from 10 points a week earlier, the poll found.

Brazil is tense ahead of the upcoming vote, as Bolsonaro refuses to accept defeat while experts worry about election-related violence.

The former army captain has repeatedly targeted the Supreme Court’s chief justice in recent months, alleging — without providing any evidence — that Brazil’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to widespread fraud.

Legal experts have denied the allegation, while the president’s critics have accused him of sowing doubt in the run-up to the election to dispute the outcome, as did former US President Donald Trump, who Bolsonaro emulated.

Guilherme Casaros, a political scientist and professor at the Fundacao Getulo Vargas in Sao Paulo, said Bolsonaro has cast doubt on the voting system as well as recent polls ahead of Sunday’s contest.

“He has made it clear many times that he does not trust Brazil’s electronic voting machines. He is doubting the Election Court. He completely ignores polls and poll numbers. Very tough times ahead, I would say,” Casaros told Al Jazeera.

“Bolsonaro is not ready to accept [the results] And most of his supporters have already said they will not accept the election results if Lula wins.”

A Genial/Quest poll on Wednesday showed negative views of Bolsonaro’s government rose to 42 percent from 39 percent last week, while the percentage who view the government in a positive light remained at 31 percent.

These officials have faced criticism for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and increased violence against indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Meanwhile, fears of election-related violence remain after Brazilian police said a 39-year-old Lula supporter was stabbed to death in a bar earlier this week after he told another patron about his voting intentions.

O Povo newspaper reported that witnesses told police that a man entered a bar in the town of Cascavel on Saturday and asked who was voting for Lula. A man said, “I will”, and was then stabbed. He died in the hospital the same day.

Human Rights Watch said it regretted “another clearly politically motivated killing” during Brazil’s election campaign. “Candidates should strongly condemn any violence and promote peaceful elections,” the group said on Twitter.

Brazilian media said police in Santa Catarina state, a Bolsonaro stronghold, were investigating another killing that may have been linked to politics. On Saturday, a 34-year-old man was stabbed to death in Rio do Sul, a city of 72,000 residents.

Bolsonaro supporters said on social media channels that Hilder Heinker died in a bar fight after showing support for the far-right leader.

Early in the campaign, a Bolsonaro supporter killed a local official of Lula’s Workers’ Party in the town of Foz de Iguacu, and there were less serious clashes between supporters of the two candidates.

Casaroes from the Fundacao Getulo Vargas said on Wednesday that if opinion polls hold true and Lula wins the presidency, he will face a “huge challenge to heal the country’s wounds”.

“Brazil has become polarized and radicalized like never before and so, if Lula tries to lean too far to the left, it will lead to even greater polarization in the country – and Lula certainly doesn’t want that.”

Bolsonaro is trailing Lula in the run-up to the October 2 election [Marcelo Chello/AP Photo]

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