Jair Bolsonaro has reportedly thrown in the towel after his presidential election defeat in Brazil on Sunday, telling members of the supreme court: “It’s over.”

He went silent for nearly two days after being beaten by the leftwing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the historic vote. When the rightwing populist finally appeared before the cameras on Tuesday afternoon, he failed to explicitly concede defeat or congratulate his vanquisher.

However, shortly after that appearance, Bolsonaro made his way to the supreme court where he met seven of its judges, including Edson Fachin, who told journalists Bolsonaro had indicated to them that he understood the writing was on the wall.

“The president used the verb ‘to end’ in the past tense,” Fachin said. “He said: ‘It’s over.’ Therefore, [one must] look ahead.”

In an interview with the newspaper O Globo, Bolsonaro’s vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, made it clear he accepted the defeat. “There’s no point in crying any more, we lost the game.”

Mourão also signalled that he opposed the pro-Bolsonaro protests that have involved hardcore supporters blockading roads to demand a military uprising, bringing traffic chaos to cities including Rio and São Paulo. “There are 58 million people who are unhappy,” Mourão said of Bolsonaro’s voters. “But they agreed to take part in the game. So they now need to calm down.”

Bolsonaro appeared to send a different message with his deliberately ambiguous two-minute address on Tuesday. In it the outgoing president called the demonstrations “the fruit of indignation and a feeling of injustice about how the electoral process played out”. “Peaceful protests will always be welcome,” Bolsonaro said, although he said destruction was not welcome.

Some hardcore supporters reportedly took those words as a call for them to stay on the streets. But the demonstrations appeared to be waning on Wednesday morning, with federal highway police saying there were 167 barricades, down from 563 on Monday.

Lula won what was widely seen as Brazil’s most important election in decades by a margin of 2.1m votes – 50.9% to 49.1% – and has been quickly embraced by the international community after four years in which Brazil became a pariah under Bolsonaro.

The US vice-president, Kamala Harris, is reportedly planning to attend Lula’s inauguration in the capital, Brasília, on 1 January.

The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, tweeted: “Congratulations … I look forward to working together on the issues that matter to the UK and Brazil, from growing the global economy to protecting the planet’s natural resources and promoting democratic values.”

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