Jair Bolsonaro easily won the first round of Brazil’s presidential election. His hardline, pro-military stance has endeared some and worried others – earning him the nickname Brazilian Trump.
Last Sunday, Brazilian right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro, won the first round of Brazil’s presidential election after gaining almost 47 percent of the 99 percent votes counted, but he fell short of the 50 percent needed to take office and avoid a runoff.
In the runoff, Bolsonaro, who was stabbed just a month before the election, will face the Labour Party’s left-wing politician Fernando Haddad, who earned 28 percent of the votes. Haddad was also Sao Paolo’s mayor from 2013 to 2017. His Labour Party nomination replaced the iconic former president Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, affectionately known as Lula, who was barred from running for the presidency after being jailed for corruption and money laundering charges.
Bolsonaro is a former military captain who uses Twitter and Facebook to spread his message. His campaign promises to fight corruption and crime, and restore Brazil’s economy and old-world values.
“Safety is our priority! It is urgent! People need jobs, they want education, but it’s no use if they continue to be robbed on the way to their jobs; it’s no use if drug trafficking remains at the doors of schools,” he tweeted on September 11.
Bolsonaro’s supporters gathered outside his home on Sunday night to celebrate the election’s preliminary results by lighting fireworks. There were lots of Brazilians seen wearing T-shirts with Bolsonaro’s picture and his slogans.
“Jair Bolsonaro is hope for the Brazilian people,” said Jean Sartorial, a 33-year-old banker.
However, many predict the second round will be tougher than expected. The runoff will be held on October 28, 2018.
Voter turnout in Brazil hit 79.67 percent. Besides electing a new president and a vice president, Brazilians also voted for 27 governors and vice governors, 513 federal representatives, 1,059 state representatives and 54 senators, as Xinhua reported.
After the Stabbing Incident, Bolsonaro Adopts Softer Tone
Bolsonaro is known as a strong supporter of military rule and has promised to stock his administration with current and former military leaders. He is a polarizing figure in Brazil and at one point said he would like to shoot corrupt members of the Workers Party. His comments have been construed as racist, misogynist and homophobic at times, triggering alarm among many Brazilians.
Last month, he was stabbed in the stomach while campaigning. In the last days of the campaign, he tried to soften his stance and change his image, from a hard-liner to a symbol of tolerance who vowed to be a leader for the country’s 208 million of the population, regardless of their skin color or religion.
Brazilians Are Faced With a Dilemma
The election polarized Brazilians. They no longer trust the Worker’s Party due to corruption charges, the scandal surrounding Lula and the increase in unemployment and crime rates.
But they do not seem to have a better option than Bolsonaro, despite his racist comments and militaristic style. Many Brazilians seem to think that Bolsonaro is the “least bad” candidate and the best available solution to provide security and tackle worsening corruption and economic problems.
“I don’t trust Haddad; I don’t trust the Worker’s Party anymore. Brazil needs a real force to counter violence. I am voting Bolsonaro for the second round without any doubt. We need a better future,” Joao Silva, a driver, told ABC News.
Others say the fear that Bolsonaro’s election would mean a return to a military dictatorship after more than 30 years is exaggerated.
“I don’t see any nostalgia of the old time of the dictatorship in this vote. I don’t think that more than 49 million Brazilian who voted for Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday want it either. It is just a way to express themselves in the most shocking way,” Thiago de Oliviera, a Brazilian political risk expert said
Markets Put Trust in Bolsonaro
Brazil’s stock markets responded positively to Bolsonaro’s first round’s victory. The benchmark Bovespa stock index rose 4.6 percent and The iShares MSCI Brasil exchange-traded fund (EWZ) jumped 6.74 percent on Monday, the biggest one-day gain since May 19, 2017.
Investors are in favor of Bolsonaro due to his economic programs. During the campaign, he promised to make the country’s central bank more independent and privatize state-owned companies.
Bolsonaro is Predicted to Win the Runoff
A preliminary survey ahead of the recent poll predicted that Bolsonaro would likely win the second round.
Support for Bolsonaro rose to 36.7 percent from 28.2 percent ahead of last Sunday’s ballot, while Haddad’s support dropped to 24 percent from 25.2 percent.
The election is seen as an opportunity to create a better era after many politicians were implicated in corruption charges and the currency plunged. But no matter who wins the runoff, Brazilians see the presence of both candidates as symbolizing a broken system – a broken system that seems to be repeating around the world.
“I think we’re going to continue with the same polarization if either Haddad or Bolsonaro wins. We’ve been on this path of crazy bipolarity. Haddad and Bolsonaro will both lead populist governments,” said Victor Aversa, a therapist who chose center-left candidate Ciro Gomes, who came third in the Sunday’s poll.