Posted on October 29, 2018

Bolsonaro Wins with 55.5 Percent of the Vote

AFP and Danyal Hussain, Daily Mail, October 28, 2018

Controversial far-right candidate and ex-soldier Jair Bolsonaro has defeated his leftist rival in the Brazilian elections.

Brazil’s top electoral court confirmed the congressman’s victory and Bolsonaro, 63, won with 55.5 per cent of the vote.

He becomes the new president of the world’s fourth-largest democracy after defeating leftist Fernando Haddad, a former Sao Paulo mayor.

A former army captain, Bolsonaro is vowing to rescue the country from crisis with a firm grip.

He tapped into deep anti-establishment anger throughout the election campaign, but repulsed many with his denigrating remarks about women, gay and black people.

Bolsonaro’s rise has been propelled by a rejection of the leftist PT that ran Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years before being ousted two years ago in the midst of a deep recession and political graft scandal.

Reacting to his victory in a video transmitted from his home in Rio de Janeiro, the new President recounted how he was stabbed while campaigning last month and almost died.

Bolsonaro, who ran on promises to clean up Brazil and bring back ‘traditional values,’ said he would respect the constitution and personal liberty.

Bolsonaro also vowed to defend ‘constitution, democracy and freedom’ in Brazil.

He said: ‘I first want to thank God. This is not the promise of a party, nor the word of a man. It is an oath before God.

‘We will change Brazil’s destiny together.’

Bolsonaro will take office on January 1. The longtime congressman pledged to govern following the Bible and the constitution and added: ‘We cannot continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and the extremism of the left.’

Mr Bolsonaro has vowed to crack down on crime in Brazil’s cities and farm belt by granting police more autonomy to shoot at criminals.

On the losing side, the reaction was despair — and a defiant vow to resist.

The defeated Haddad vowed to ‘defend freedoms’ of the president-elect’s opponents and the 45 million people who voted for him.

Aides also said that Mr Haddad had not called Bolsonaro to congratulate him.

‘This is a dark day for Brazil; Brazilian democracy is now in complete crisis,’ said Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Laura Chinchilla, the former president of Costa Rica and head of the Organization of American States’ Electoral Observation Mission, said the vote had been calm and orderly across the country, which has suffered a spate of partisan violence during the campaign.

As the results came in, supporters flooded the streets outside Bolsonaro’s home in Rio de Janeiro, letting off fireworks and waving Brazilian flags.

People also set off fireworks on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach, and car drivers honked their horns across the city.

In Sao Paulo, crowds gathered on a central avenue with banners and flags and people cheered and set off firecrackers in other neighborhoods as results came in.

Riot police separated supporters of Bolsonaro and those of Fernando Haddad when they briefly scuffled in Sao Paulo.

After the result, supporters of the leftist Worker Party (PT) and Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gathered outside the Federal Police headquarters where Lula is serving a prison sentence, in Curitiba.

Many Brazilians are concerned that Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and a defender of its use of torture on leftist opponents, will trample on human rights, curtail civil liberties and muzzle freedom of speech.

The 63-year-old seven-term congressman has vowed to crack down on crime in Brazil’s cities and farm belt by granting police more autonomy to shoot at criminals.

He also wants to let more Brazilians buy weapons to fight crime.

Bolsonaro — who is nicknamed ‘Tropical Trump’ — made a final pitch on social media ahead of the election, the only place he has campaigned since an attacker stabbed him in the stomach at a rally last month, sending him to the hospital for three weeks.

‘God willing, tomorrow will be our new independence day,’ he tweeted.

In an unusual move, the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court, Jose Dias Toffoli, read out part of the country’s constitution to reporters after he voted yesterday. Many took it to be a rebuke of Mr Bolsonaro and his more extreme positions.

He said: ‘The future president must respect institutions, must respect democracy, the rule of law, the judiciary branch, the national Congress and the legislative branch.’

Coming on the heels of a punishing recession and staggering corruption scandal, the Latin American giant’s elections have thrown up a spectacular cast of characters, even by the standards of these divisive, anti-establishment times.

Bolsonaro repulses a large part of the electorate — and many outside the country — with his overtly misogynistic, homophobic and racist rhetoric.

He once told a lawmaker he opposed that she ‘wasn’t worth raping;’ he has said he would rather see his sons die than come out as gay; and he commented after visiting one black community that they ‘do nothing — they’re so useless I doubt they can procreate.’

But an even larger portion of voters rejected Haddad and the tarnished legacy of his Workers’ Party.

Haddad, 55, stood as a surrogate for jailed ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who led Brazil through the boom years of 2003 to 2010.

Lula remains the country’s most popular politician, despite being accused of masterminding the massive pilfering of state oil company Petrobras.

But the hugely divisive Workers’ Party founder was barred from running because he is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Haddad, who lacks Lula’s natural charisma, struggled to unite opposition to Bolsonaro, despite mounting fears over what the former army officer’s presidency would look like.

His campaign slogan was to make Brazil ‘happy again’ — as in Lula’s poverty-fighting golden days — but it is an uncomfortable legacy.

He ultimately ended up pulling his controversial mentor’s image from his campaign ads.

Bolsonaro harks back to a different past: that of the ‘Brazilian miracle’ of rapid industrialisation under the military regime that ruled from 1964 to 1985.

He has drawn criticism for his vocal defense of the brutal dictatorship.

He once said the regime’s ‘mistake’ was that it tortured, instead of killing, leftist dissidents and suspected sympathisers.

But in an anti-establishment climate, his message has sold better than Haddad’s.

The election looks set to be decided as much by Brazilians voting against something as for it.

One poll released Saturday found 39 percent of voters said they would not cast a ballot for Bolsonaro under any circumstances.

The rejection rate for Haddad was even higher: 44 percent.

Running for the formerly minor Social Liberal Party, Bolsonaro is, according to many political analysts, a symptom of the crises ailing Brazil since the Workers Party’s 13 years in power came crashing to an end with the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016.

Among those crises: Brazil’s economy shrank nearly seven percent during its worst-ever recession, from 2015 to 2016; the multi-billion-dollar Petrobras scandal has left voters disgusted with the seemingly bottomless corruption of politicians and business executives; and there is widespread outrage over violent crime, in a country that registered a record 63,880 murders last year.

Outgoing President Michel Temer, himself implicated in corruption, is set to leave office on January 1 as the most unpopular president in Brazil’s modern democracy with a two per cent approval rating.