Soften­ing im­ages ahead of Brazil run-off

The Star Malaysia - - World -

RIO DE JANEIRO: Two weeks be­fore a run­off to de­cide Brazil’s pres­i­dency, the du­elling far­right and left­ist can­di­dates are try­ing to soften their im­ages to ap­peal to po­larised vot­ers.

Re­jigged cam­paigns were launched with new TV ads from the two – Jair Bol­sonaro, 63, and Fer­nando Had­dad, 55.

Fron­trun­ner Bol­sonaro, a pop­ulist for­mer para­trooper vow­ing a ro­bust law­and­or­der regime, eased gun laws and tougher im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tions if he wins, re­jected the ex­treme­right la­bel in a me­dia con­fer­ence on Thurs­day.

“I’m not far­right,” he in­sisted. “Point out to me an act of mine that is far­right.”

He de­clared him­self an “ad­mirer” of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and said: “He wants a great United

States – I want a great Brazil.”

Had­dad for his part sought to dis­tance him­self from for­mer pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva, whom he re­placed last month as the Work­ers Party can­di­date.

He re­moved pic­tures of the ex­leader from his cam­paign fly­ers and ads, and dropped the party’s sig­na­ture red colour for Brazil’s green­and­gold mo­tif.

Lula, though still broadly pop­u­lar among the poor, is seen by bet­teroff Bol­sonaro vot­ers as em­blem­atic of a graft­rid­den Work­ers Party that ruled be­tween 2003 and 2016, the tail end of which saw Brazil’s worst re­ces­sion on record.

The Oct 28 run­off is Bol­sonaro’s to lose, polls sug­gest.

In the first round of the elec­tions, held last Sun­day, Bol­sonaro eas­ily trounced a dozen ri­vals, grab­bing 46% of the vote. Had­dad came sec­ond with 29%.

Ac­cord­ing to a Datafolha voter sur­vey, Bol­sonaro has 58% sup­port go­ing into the run­off, against 42% for Had­dad.

The ri­vals have sep­a­rately called for calm af­ter a se­ries of vi­o­lent in­ci­dents linked to the febrile at­mo­sphere around the elec­tions.

The right­wing can­di­date, a deputy in Brazil’s congress since 1991 who re­cently joined the ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive So­cial Lib­eral Party, has made deft use of so­cial me­dia to woo vot­ers.

Part of that was the re­sult of him con­va­lesc­ing for weeks af­ter be­ing stabbed by a lone as­sailant on the cam­paign trail last month.

But he said on Thurs­day there was a “strate­gic” choice to min­imise shar­ing the stage with Had­dad in tele­vised de­bates.

Six de­bates were sched­uled to take place be­fore the run­off, but half of them were can­celled af­ter Bol­sonaro’s doc­tors said he still wasn’t suf­fi­ciently re­cov­ered, and only the last two, set for Oct 21 and 26, were seen as pos­si­bly tak­ing place.

— AFP/Reuters

Face-off: Bol­sonaro and Had­dad are set to go head-to-head on Oct 28.

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