Brazil’s presidential election heads to the second round with Jair Bolsonaro, a controversial far-right candidate leading the polls. Bolsonaro won a crowded first round with 46 % of the vote, just shy of the 50 % + 1 threshold needed to be elected in the first round. Fernando Haddad, a member of the left-wing Worker’s Party, finished in second with 29 percent. The Worker’s party has won every single election since 2002 when Luiz Inacio da Silva, popularly known as ‘Lula’, was first elected. This is due to Lula’s popularity especially amongst poorer voters who have greatly benefited from his generous social programs. Lula was convicted on corruption charges linked to the operation Car Wash, the world’s biggest corruption scandal that implicated many people of his party. Lula’s successor at the time, President Dilma Rousseff, also suffered from all the bad publicity about the Car Wash Operation and was impeached for accounting trickery. Despite this, Lula remains very popular and his supporters view his arrest as a political persecution. Lula was once again the Worker’s Party’s candidate for this year’s election, despite the fact that he was serving his prison sentence. He was leading in the polls before being blocked by the justice department from running. Fernando Haddad, who was his running mate, has taken his place and managed to finish second behind Bolsonaro.
The polls are very favourable to Jair Bolsonaro who has 59 percent against 41 for Haddad. Both candidates have large rejection rates, but more so for Haddad whom’s links to former president Lula have angered a lot of people because of the corruption scandals. Bolsonaro is a former military captain currently serving his 27th year as a congressman from Rio. He has gained notoriety for his demeaning comments regarding women, the LGBT community and Afro-Brazilians. He has also praised the past military regime in Brazil, calling the dictatorship “glorious” and a regime that “lead to a more sustainable and prosperous Brazil”. Despite being a long-time member of Congress, he portrays himself as an anti-establishment outsider that defends family values and promises to be tough on crime and corruption. He joined a small party, the Social Liberal Party, and with his help, they have managed to raise their seats in Congress from 8 to 51 becoming the second party with the most seats behind Haddad’s Workers Party, who have 56. Brazil has a lot of parties, so these numbers are quite large.
Bolsonaro’s large lead, and largely expected victory, is just aligned with a trend of far-right advances and victories around the globe, especially in Europe, where all recent national elections have seen them make large gains. Far-right parties have swept to power in Austria and Italy. They have made major gains in France, where far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen made it to the second round of the election and took 33% of the vote, and in Germany, where the far-right Alternative for Germany secured enough votes to become the third largest party with 94 seats in the German Parliament. In addition to the shocking outcome of the 2016 American Presidential election in which Donald Trump managed to pull off an upset victory over Hillary Clinton.
The Brazilian election in many ways’ mirrors the American election. Both Trump and Clinton were highly unpopular, just like both candidates in Brazil. Clinton was associated with scandals and accusations of corruption, in a similar manner to Haddad’s party, and Trump, just like Bolsonaro, ran a very populist and dog-whistle campaign. However, in the end, all the controversial statements did not impede Trump from becoming president and it looks like it will not stop Bolsonaro either.
There will not be any debates leading up to the second-round vote due to Bolsonaro’s recovery from a stabbing attack earlier in the campaign. He says he is still recovering, and most political strategists say he should not go to the debates given his large lead in the polls. The final vote in Latin America’s largest country, and the sixth in the world, will be on October 28th.
Written By: Yuri-Terra Turgeon and Mohammad-Afaaq Mansoor