Brazilians began casting ballots Sunday in their most divisive presidential election in years, with a far-right politician promising an iron-fisted crackdown on crime, Jair Bolsonaro, the firm favorite in the first round.
Surveys suggest the 63-year-old former paratrooper, who wants to cut spiralling debt through sweeping privatizations and embrace the United States and Israel, could count on more than one in three voters in the vast Latin American nation.
But at least as many in the 147-million-strong electorate reject the veteran federal lawmaker.
He is known for repeated offensive comments against women, gays and the poor, and for lauding the military dictatorship Brazil shucked off just three decades ago.
If Bolsonaro gets more than 50 percent of the vote to lead the field of 13 candidates, he will win the presidency outright. Otherwise, a run-off will be held on October 28.
Analysts say a first-round victory for Bolsonaro is possible — but unlikely.
The last surveys released late Saturday credited Bolsonaro with 36 percent against 22 percent for his nearest rival, leftist former Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad.
With blank and invalid votes stripped out, Bolsonaro could pocket 40-41 percent of the vote to 25 percent for Haddad, polling firms Ibope and Datafolha said.
A run-off was seen as too close to call, given the two-point margin of error, though Bolsonaro was seen with a small edge: 45 percent, to 41-43 percent for Haddad.
Voting began at 8:00 am (1100 GMT) under tight security. Initial results were expected shortly after the last polling stations close at 2200 GMT in the western Amazonian state of Acre.