The Strategist

Is Brazil going to elect its own Trump?

10/05/2018 - 16:01

The presidential race in Brazil reached the finish line: Friday is the last day of campaigning in print media. The elections will be held on October 7, but we can hardly expect to know name of the new President right away. Most likely, the second round will become a competition between the right conservative Jair Bolsonaro, who was nicknamed "Brazilian Trump", and Fernando Haddad from the left Workers Party, which in recent years has been plagued by corruption scandals. Both politicians promise to lead the country out of the crisis. But the remaining candidates present their main rivals as potential dictators and predict an even more serious crisis for the country if any of them is elected.

Friday is the last day when 13 candidates for the presidency of Brazil can advertise themselves in print media. Already on Saturday, they will have to campaign only with the help of social networks, leaflets and banners.

“I insist on asking you: let's work some more, friends. We can win in the first round,” the candidate from the right-wing Social Liberal Party, Jair Bolsonaro, called in a video posted on Facebook. This conservative politician is a favorite of the presidential race, but polls show that one cannot do without a second round. In the first, Jair Bolsonaro will be able to collect about 32% (data from the Brazilian Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Statistics (Ibope) on October 3). The second place is most likely to be taken by the candidate from the left Party of Workers (PT) Fernando Haddad (23%), and the third - to the center-left Ciro Gomes (10%).

Election rallies in Brazil changed dramatically in just a month and a half. At the beginning of the campaign, on August 15, ex-President of the country (2003-2011) and founder of PT Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had the highest rating of 30%. However, two weeks later, he was denied the right to participate in the race, as the politician is serving a prison term for corruption and cannot hold elected office. His supporters do not believe that he is guilty and he himself also denies it. As a result, PT replaced him with the former mayor of the city of São Paulo, former Minister of Education Fernando Haddad.

After ex-President left the pre-election race, the first place, according to polls, was taken by Jair Bolsonaro, whom the Western media often compare with the US President Donald Trump. The former military man, Mr. Bolsonaro approves of the military dictatorship in Brazil in 1964-1985, believes that women should earn less than men, supports the death penalty and legalization of carrying weapons. Like the American president, he defends interests of the national industry and plans to limit China’s influence on the Brazilian economy. Opponents of the candidate call him homophobic and sexist. “I would not be able to love a homosexual son, I would prefer him to die in a car accident,” the politician admitted in 2001. “I would not rape you because you are not worth this,” he said two years later to a woman, a member of parliament. “A policeman who does not kill is not a policeman,” Mr. Bolsonaro claimed in 2017.

On September 30, at least 200 thousand Brazilians went to a rally against Jair Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro. Yet, supporters of the politician believe that only such a person can restore order in a country that beats its own record for the number of murders for the third year in a row (63.9 thousand in 2017). Even the fact that he could not fully participate in the campaign did not affect his popularity: on September 6, he was stabbed in the stomach with a knife during a meeting with voters.

Less popular candidates are trying to prove that the two race leaders are too radical. Thus, during the debate, the politician Marina Silva accused them of a penchant for authoritarianism. Despite the claims, Fernando Haddad and Jair Bolsonaro have all the chances in the second round, which may take place on October 28.

According to Ibope, Mr. Haddad has a chance to get 43% of the votes in the second round, and his opponent - 41%. Wagner Roman, a professor of political science at the University of Campinas, said: “Anything can happen in conditions of extreme polarization that divided the country,” but “Fernando Haddad is the ideal candidate to unite the left and the centrists.” A professor of political science at the Federal University of San Carlos Maria Do Socorro Sousa Braga adds: “Bolsonaro has more chances to lose, 44% of Brazilian voters are negative about him, and this is the highest number among the candidates.”