In the first presidential debate for the October general election, Brazil's leading contenders for president took the gloves off and traded accusations of corruption and dangers to democracy.

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who left office with record popularity but was convicted of bribery in 2017, is running against incumbent far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro has come under fire for handling the COVID-19 crisis and attacks on Brazil's voting system.

Bolsonaro used the controversy involving exorbitant contracts with the state-run oil giant Petrobras in claiming that his leftist rival ran Brazil's most corrupt administration ever.

He questioned one of the six contenders at the Band TV discussion, asking, "Why do you want to return to power? To continue doing the same thing at Petrobras?"

The current front-runner in the race, Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2010, claimed that people should remember his administration for having done the most to combat poverty.

According to Lula, people lament the country he left because it was one of employment and where people were allowed to live honorably and with their heads held high.

Lula presided over Brazil during years of rapid economic expansion, but he was imprisoned for 19 months after being found guilty of bribery and had his convictions overturned.

According to polls, Bolsonaro trails Lula by double digits. Bolsonaro has frequently criticized Brazil's electronic voting system, which has led to concerns that if he loses, he will challenge the outcome.

Two of the six contenders were women, and their criticism of Bolsonaro during the discussion was among the toughest.

When asked how to reconcile the present dispute between the Bolsonaro administration and the court, Senator Simone Tebet of the center-left Brazilian Democratic Movement party responded, "We have a president who threatens democracy. We need to change the president."

After a media report claimed that many businessmen who supported his re-election had discussed a coup d'etat if he lost, Bolsonaro charged the judiciary with overstepping its bounds by authorizing a police operation against them.

Tebet claimed that some of Bolsonaro's ministers bullied her during a Senate inquiry on the government's response to the virus, accusing him of postponing the purchase of vaccines and disseminating false information regarding COVID-19.

She pointed at the president and stated, "I am not frightened of you."

Bolsonaro insisted he was a pro-rights woman and claimed Brazilian women adore him because he upholds the institution of marriage and is against the legalization of drugs.