Brazil candidates seek to soften images
>> RIO DE JANEIRO: Two weeks before a run-off to decide Brazil’s presidency, the duelling far-right and leftist candidates are trying to soften their images to appeal to polarised voters.
Rejigged campaigns were launched on Friday with new TV ads from the two — Jair Bolsonaro, 63, and Fernando Haddad, 55 — attacking the other and each claiming they stood for all Brazilians.
Front-runner Mr Bolsonaro, a populist former paratrooper vowing a robust lawand-order regime, eased gun laws and tougher immigration restrictions if he wins, rejected the extreme-right label in a media conference on Thursday.
“I’m not far-right,” he insisted. “Point out to me an act of mine that is far-right.”
He declared himself an “admirer” of US President Donald Trump and said: “He wants a great United States — I want a great Brazil.”
In his ads, he put emphasis on his family, and hinted at his anti-crime stance as being “firm”.
Mr Haddad for his part distanced himself from former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whom he replaced last month as the Workers Party candidate. His ads portrayed him as defending democracy and social inclusion.
He has removed pictures of Lula from his campaign flyers, and dropped the party’s signature red colour for Brazil’s green-and-gold motif.
Lula, though still broadly popular among the poor, is seen better-off by Bolsonaro voters as emblematic of a graft-ridden Workers Party that ruled between 2003 and 2016, the tail end of which saw Brazil’s worst recession on record.
The Oct 28 run-off is Mr Bolsonaro’s to lose, polls suggest.
In the first round of the elections, held last Sunday, Mr Bolsonaro easily trounced a dozen rivals, grabbing 46% of the vote. Mr Haddad came second with 29%.
According to a Datafolha voter survey, Mr Bolsonaro has 58% support going into the run-off, against 42% support his opponent for Mr Haddad.
The rivals have separately called for calm after a series of violent incidents linked to the febrile atmosphere around the elections.
The right-wing 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 Mr Haddad during televised debates.
Six debates were scheduled to take place before the run-off, but half of them were cancelled after Mr 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.
CLOSE RACE: A campaign advertisement for Fernando Haddad is seen on a television.