Brazil can­di­dates seek to soften images

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

>> 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.

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