After a divisive campaign which saw two bitter rivals on opposite sides of the political spectrum go head to head, Lula won 50.9% of the votes.
It was enough to beat Jair Bolsonaro, whose supporters had been confident of victory.
But the division which this election has highlighted is unlikely to vanish.
It is a stunning comeback for a politician who could not run in the last presidential election in 2018 because he was in jail and banned from standing for office.
He had been found guilty of receiving a bribe from a Brazilian construction firm in return for contracts with Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras.
Lula spent 580 days in jail before his conviction was annulled and he returned to the political fray.
“They tried to bury me alive and here I am,” he said, kicking off his victory speech.
Jair Bolsonaro has yet to concede. The campaign had in part been so tense because the far-right president had cast doubts – without offering any evidence – on the reliability of Brazil’s electronic voting system.
This fomented fears he might not accept the result if it went against him.
A day before the second round however, he stated that: “There is not the slightest doubt. Whoever has more votes, takes it [the election]. That’s what democracy is about.”
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