Far-Right Candidate Jair Bolsonaro Wins First Round of Brazil Vote

Bolsonaro, who ran a social media driven campaign, has been compared to US president Donald Trump y many critics for his polarising style.

New Delhi: Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro just won the first round of voting in the presidential election with 46% of the vote, falling just short of the majority required to avoid a second-round runoff. He will now take his next shot at the presidency on October 28.

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 Labor party’s Ciro Gomes with 12.5%.

“For someone with no TV time, a small party, no political funds and who has been hospitalised for 30 days, this is a great victory,” Bolsonaro – who was stabbed on the campaign trail last month – proclaimed in a Facebook Live post late Sunday.

Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s 1964 to 1985 military regime, has accused the Workers Party of trying to rig the elections. His running mate, retired General Hamilton Mourão, has said the armed forces should carry out a coup if the country’s judiciary cannot end political corruption.

Bolsonaro supporters include many Brazilians who believe he will bring in law and order and make Brazil safer. More so, as a Roman Catholic, he has also attracted the support of millions of evangelical Christians by saying he will defend traditional family values.

Also read: Hate or Hope: In a Bitter Election, Brazil Fights for Its Soul and Democracy

But Bolsonaro’s fiery anti-democratic rhetoric of the past, his stance that Brazil’s already notoriously violent police should kill as many criminals as possible, and his desire to rollback progressives’ gains in recent years have also enraged a large number of voters.

Bolsonaro said on Monday that he was already in talks with other lawmakers in Congress to gain support if he wins a second-round run-off later this month, as his party would not be able to govern alone.

Bolsonaro said Sunday night he intended to unite a nation that is “on the brink of chaos” and said, “together we will rebuild our Brazil.”

“I can’t turn into a Little ‘Peace and Love’ Jair, which would be betraying who I am,” Bolsonaro said in a radio interview. “I have to keep being the same person.”

His words were a thinly veiled swipe at former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who dropped his fiery leftist rhetoric to win the presidency in 2002, dubbing himself the ‘Peace and Love’ candidate.

Lula, the founder of the Workers Party, was president until 2010, but is now serving 12 years in prison on corruption charges.

Haddad will have to pull off an extreme feat of political acrobatics if he wants to reverse a first-round beating at the hands of a far-right rival. To have a chance of winning against Jair Bolsonaro, Haddad would need to move hard to the centre, distance himself from his political mentor and denounce the corruption that flourished during his party’s 2003-2016 run in government, political analysts said.

Also read: Brazil on a Knife-Edge as Polls Predict an Election Going Down to the Wire

“Haddad has to pivot or perish,” said Sergio Praça, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a leading university. “He also must drop the talk that Lula is a political prisoner. He is not going to win with that line.”

Bolsonaro, who ran a social media driven campaign, has been compared to US president Donald Trump by many critics for his polarising style. The election is further proof of the world’s march towards the right.

Even John Oliver made a mass appeal to voters to not vote for ‘the Brazilian Trump’ in a 16-minute video part of his HBO show Last Week Tonight.

(With inputs from Reuters)