Brazil voted Sunday in deeply divisive presidential elections, with Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician vowing a harsh crackdown on crime, seen as the firm favorite in the first round.
Most polling stations closed at 2000 GMT, with only those in a later timezone in the west of the vast country still open. Initial results were expected later Sunday.
Voting was marked by displays of the polarization generated by Bolsonaro and his nearest rival in a field of 13, left-wing Workers Party candidate Fernado Haddad.
Some voters -- particularly women -- wore "Not Him" slogans to polling stations, declaring their fierce opposition to Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former paratrooper who has made disparaging remarks of women and gays, and spoken nostalgically of Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
But supporters, like 53-year-old lawyer Roseli Milhomem in Brasilia, said they were behind him because "Brazil wants change."
"We've had enough of corruption. Our country is wealthy, it can't fall into the wrong hands," she said.
In second place is former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party, which has won the last four presidential elections.
Some Brazilians banged pots in protest when Haddad, 55, voted in Sao Paulo, the mega-city he once ruled as mayor.
There is palpable disappointment and anger at the Workers Party, blamed for being at the helm when Brazil plunged into its worst-ever recession, from which it is still struggling to recover.
But a Haddad voter, Jose Dias, said it would be a "catastrophe" if Bolsonaro triumphed.
"A lot of young people are voting for him. They don't know what it was like under the dictatorship," he said.
Polls before the election suggested Bolsonaro could win as much as 43 percent of valid votes, far ahead of Haddad's 25 percent.
If no candidate scores more than 50 percent of ballots, a run-off will be held on Oct. 28. The outcome of that round is far from certain, with Haddad seen as picking up support from many of the other candidates knocked out of the race.
The campaign to run Latin America's largest economy, which is a major trade partner for countries in the region and a diplomatic heavyweight, has been unpredictable and tense. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva led initial polls by a wide margin, but was banned from running after a corruption conviction. Bolsonaro was stabbed at a rally in early September and campaigned from a hospital bed in recent weeks. And all along, Brazilians have said their faith in their leaders and their hopes for the future are waning.
This election was once seen as the great hope for ending a turbulent era in which many politicians and business executives were jailed on corruption charges, a president was impeached and removed from office in controversial proceedings, and the economy suffered a protracted recession.
Instead, the two front-runners merely reflect the rabid divisions that have opened up in Brazilian politics following Dilma Rousseff's impeachment and the revelations emerging from the "Car Wash" graft probe.
Bolsonaro, whose base tends to be middle class, has painted a nation in collapse, where drug traffickers and politicians steal with equal impunity, and a moral rot has set in. He has advocated loosening gun ownership laws so individuals could fight off criminals, giving police a freer hand to use force and restoring "traditional" Brazilian values — though some take issue with his definition of those values in light of his approving allusions to the past military dictatorship and his repeated derisive comments about women, blacks and gay people.
"There is a strong desire for change," said Andre Portela, an economics professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a leading university and think tank. "Bolsonaro has been able to channel that and present himself as the bearer of change, though it's not clear if he really would be."
Haddad and the Workers' Party, meanwhile, have portrayed a country hijacked by an elite that will protect its privileges at all costs and can't bear to see the lives of poor and working class Brazilians improve.
Haddad has promised to roll back President Michel Temer's economic reforms that he says eroded workers' rights, to increase investment in social programs and to bring back the boom years Brazil experienced under his mentor, da Silva.
Caught in the middle are Brazilians who dislike both candidates and see them as symbols of a broken system.
Perhaps nothing has demonstrated the dysfunction more than the Car Wash investigation. Prosecutors alleged that Brazil's government was run like a cartel for years, handing out billions of dollars in public contracts in exchange for kickbacks and bribes. Revelations of suitcases of cash, leaked recordings of incriminating exchanges between powerbrokers and the jailing of some of the of the country's most powerful people unfolded like a Hollywood script — and then became one: Netflix released a (barely) fictionalized account of the probe this year.
Yet it's not clear that voters will reject the many politicians implicated in the scandal because the electoral system heavily favors incumbents and big parties.
The election has seen large increases in the numbers of candidates from marginalized groups, including black, indigenous and transgender Brazilians, and some think the anti-establishment feelings could translate into a more representative ruling class.
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