Bolsonaro seduces Brazil
After a campaign as improbable and electrifying as any Brazilian telenovela – although infinitely more consequential for the future of one of the world’s largest and most diverse democracies – the far-right Brazilian populist Jair Bolsonaro secured a resounding victory in the first-round of his country’s presidential election last Sunday.
After 94% of votes had been counted, Bolsonaro had secured 46.93% of votes, which left him just short of the majority required to avoid a second-round runoff.
The second-placed candidate, the leftist Workers’ party Fernando Haddad, won 28% of the vote, according to Brazil’s superior electoral court, the TSE. Behind him came the Democratic Labour party’s Ciro Gomes with 12.5%. Those results mean Bolsonaro, who received more than 46m votes, and Haddad will face off for the presidency on 28 October in a secondround vote.
Jubilant Bolsonaro followers gathered outside his home in western Rio de Janeiro last Sunday evening to celebrate the result.
“Jair Bolsonaro is hope for the
Brazilian people,” said Jean Sartorial, a 33-year-old banker.
Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, said the colossal support for Bolsonaro in much of the country meant he was a huge favourite to beat Haddad. “This idea that Bolsonaro can save the country and make it safe for people to walk on the streets at night and tend the corruption in Brasilia and make a dent in 13 million unemployed – that’s an idea most Brazilians now seem to have bought,” he said.
In a broadcast on the eve of the election, the 63-year-old candidate of the Social Liberal party echoed Donald Trump with a call to his 7 million Facebook followers: “Let’s make Brazil great! Let’s be proud of our homeland once again!”
Throughout his 27-year career as a congressman, Bolsonaro has been notorious for throwing vitriol at Brazil’s black, gay and indigenous communities, as well as his support for military rule.
Last month, Bolsonaro called for his leftwing political opponents to be shot; two days later he himself was stabbed at a rally in an attempted assassination. But in the days before the vote when he was forced to campaign from a hospital bed, Bolsonaro tried to recast himself as a paragon of tolerance who would rule for all Brazil’s 208 million citizens.
Progressive Brazilians, sickened by the rise of a pro-torture politician whose supporters have a penchant for wearing clothes emblazoned with images of assault rifles and handguns, are not convinced.
Casting her vote at a school, Soraya de Souza, a 56-year-old lawyer, said Brazil faced a stark choice: “It is democracy or fascism.”
Front runner Jair Bolsonaro fell short of an overall majority but is favourite to to prevail in a second-round run-off
Supporters of Fernando Haddad celebrate a rare triumph for their candidate in Rio de Janeiro