The “Brazilian Trump” Wins but Faces a Runoff Later this Month

By Isaac Risco and Fernando Duclos (dpa)

Jair Bolsonaro won the first round but fell shy of a 50% majority and must now face his closest rival in a runoff election on October 28th.

HAVANA TIMES – Ultra-rightwinger Jair Bolsonaro won the first round of the Brazilian elections on Sunday and in three weeks will compete in a runoff with the Worker’s Party candidate Fernando Haddad for the presidency. These are the most uncertain elections in the South American giant since the end of the dictatorship in 1985.

The two candidates surviving for the second round are opposite ends of a campaign marked for weeks by a huge polarization.

Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former military man known as the “Brazilian Donald Trump” for his populist and nationalist discourse, obtained 46.26 percent of the vote, with 99% of the votes counted.

Haddad, whose last-minute candidacy was formalized only in mid-September, received 28.95 percent. The second round is scheduled for October 28th.

Haddad took off in the polls when he was appointed candidate of his Workers’ Party (PT) to replace the incarcerated Lula da Silva. However, rejection of the party that had governed for 13 of the last 15 years had also shot up.

Bolsonaro’s candidacy was the one that most benefited from that repudiation.

“I am certain that we will win in the second round. There are two roads in Brazil: one is prosperity, freedom, family, God and responsibility,” the Social Liberal Party (PSL) candidate said Sunday from his home in Rio de Janeiro, where he recovers from a knife attack he suffered at the beginning of September.

Meanwhile, Haddad called for an alliance with the other smaller parties to stop the candidate seen by many Brazilians as a threat to democracy.

“I feel challenged by the results, which are quite expressive, in the sense that they make us see the risks Brazil is facing,” Haddad said from the campaign headquarters of his Workers’ Party in Sao Paulo. “We want to unite Brazil’s democrats,” he added.

Bolsonaro is controversial for his praise of the last military dictatorship (1964-1985), his frequent insults against women, blacks and homosexuals.

His extremism, however, confirmed on the day of the elections the rise of his candidacy in a country weary of the institutional crisis, violence and corruption scandals.

The electoral climate will no doubt remain tense over the next three weeks. The polls previous to the first round gave a situation of technical tie between Bolsonaro and Haddad for the second round.

Although he presents himself as an “anti-system” candidate, Bolsonaro has been a legislator since 1991 and has served in nine parties with different ideological orientations and without great political weight until now.

In these elections he expressed an ultra-conservative program on social issues and liberal on economic ones. One of his main proposals is to liberalize the possession of weapons to combat crime.

The biggest challenge facing the PT candidate will be to convince voters who reject the PT for their corruption cases during their years in office (2003-2016).

The support Haddad recieved in the first round, supported by the still strong popularity of Lula, could be insufficient in the end. The former president, who is serving a sentence of 12 years in prison for corruption since April, is still very popular among the poorest classes for the successful social programs promoted by his two governments between 2003 and 2010.

The strength of the largest left party in the region was confirmed only in the northern part of the country, where it won clearly. In most of the rest, however, it suffered painful defeats.

Former President Dilma Rousseff, forced out of office in 2016 in a controversial process of “impeachment”, unexpectedly lost her bid for a Senate seat in the state of Minas Gerais.