Brazilians vote for far-right candidate in Sunday presidential election, reject socialists

Oct 8, 2018

Continuing a trend of conservative victories in Latin American elections, far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro led the field in Brazil’s Sunday national election. With almost all votes counted, Bolsonaro had 47 percent of the votes to 29 percent for his socialist opponent Fernando Haddad, who he will face in an October 28 run-off.

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro celebrate Sunday election results.

Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party also made impressive gains in Brazil’s national congress.

Analysts were surprised at Bolsonaro strong showing, crediting his strength to widespread anger at the country’s prolonged recession, rising crime and corruption, which voters blame on a decade of socialist rule. Experts said that Haddad had little chance of overtaking Bolsonaro in the run-off.

Jair Bolsonaro

“This is seismic shift in the political affairs of Brazil,” said Rodrigo Viana, a former foreign minister. “Mr. Bolsonaro captured support from workers and poor minorities who traditionally support the left. They see their leftist leaders unable to improve the economy and then see them arrested for corruption. Voters want a change in leadership.”

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Still, Viana says he was surprised at Bolsonaro’s high vote total. Many pre-election polls showed Bolsonaro and Haddad running neck-and-neck.

During the campaign, Bolsonaro praised U.S. president Donald Trump and said he intended to follow the Trump example. “Brazil will be a great nation again and I will unite the nation under a banner of family, prosperity and liberty with God on our side.” He claimed that a Haddad victory would take Brazil down the “Venezuelan path of dictatorship and deprivation.”

A former army captain, Bolsonaro attacked laws that support gay and women’s rights, said he thought the use of torture is legitimate as a deterrent to crime. He also said he will support legislation to restore the death penalty.

Among the losers in Sunday’s election was former president Dilma Rousseff of the socialist Workers’ Party, who came in fourth in a race for seat in Congress.

The election results continued a recent trend away from the leftist leadership in Latin America that had been dominant for much of the last decade. “What we saw Sunday in Brazil follows the path of conservative gains in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador,” Viana said.

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