Softening images ahead of Brazil run-off
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.
Face-off: Bolsonaro and Haddad are set to go head-to-head on Oct 28.