Buenos Aires Times

latin america BRAZILIAN ELECTIONS

Brazilians cast votes for president, with Bolsonaro clear favourite

Brazil begin voting Sunday in a divisive presidential run-off ballot, with far-right former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro expected to see off Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad.

Sunday 28 October, 2018
Brazilian soldiers stand guard as people wait in line to cast their votes at the polling centre in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 28, 2018 Brazilians will choose their president today during the second round national election between the far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro and leftist Fernando Haddad.
Brazilian soldiers stand guard as people wait in line to cast their votes at the polling centre in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 28, 2018 Brazilians will choose their president today during the second round national election between the far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro and leftist Fernando Haddad. Foto:RICARDO MORAES / POOL / AFP

More Latin america News

Brazil began voting Sunday in a divisive presidential run-off election whose front-runner, far-right former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, is vowing to rescue the country from crisis with a firm grip.

Bolsonaro -–who has tapped deep anti-establishment anger, but repulsed part of the electorate with his denigrating remarks on women, gays and blacks – faces leftist Workers' Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad, a former São Paulo mayor.

Bolsonaro had an eight- to 10-point lead going in, according to two final opinion polls released Saturday, which gave him about 55 percent of the vote.

And while Haddad had made up ground – he trailed by as much as 18 points two weeks ago – it would take a dramatic surge for him to win.

"This thing is going to turn around," Haddad, 55, buoyantly told thousands of supporters at his final campaign rally Saturday.

Bolsonaro, 63, made his own final pitch on social media, 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, [it] will be our new independence day," he tweeted.

One election, two Brazils

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

Bolsonaro outrages 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 reject Haddad and the tarnished legacy of his Workers' Party.

Haddad is standing as a surrogate for jailed ex-president Luiz Iáacio 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 PT founder was barred from running because he is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

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

Rejection vote

Bolsonaro is unabashedly nostalgic for Brazil's brutal military dictatorship (1964-1985), and has been accused of authoritarian tendencies.

He once said the dictatorship's "mistake" was that it tortured, instead of killing, leftist dissidents and suspected sympathisers.

But in an anti-establishment climate, his law-and-order message has resonated.

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

"I'm not very enthusiastic, because I don't really like either candidate," Elias Chaim, 23, an engineering student and music producer, told AFP at a polling station facing the legendary beach of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro.

"But I want to vote Haddad, because Bolsonaro's discourse of hate and intolerance is a risk for our country."

In São Paulo, the economic capital, Marcos Kotait, 40, a publicist, said he had "never seen such a polarized election."

"It used to be people would actually vote for what they wanted, and not just against something," he said.

Country in crisis

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.

Results from the ballots cast from Brazil's 147 million voters are expected around 8pm local time.

- TIMES/AFP

Poll

Op-Ed

Top Stories

  1. 1First photos from the deep: the wreckage of the ARA San JuanFirst photos from the deep: the wreckage of the ARA San Juan
  2. 2Navy, Defence Ministry confirm ARA San Juan submarine has been found
  3. 3Cambiemos looks for quorum to strip Fernández de Kirchner of immunity
  4. 4False alarms and bomb threats spark security concerns ahead of G20 summit
  5. 5ARA San Juan relatives contradict officials: 'Submarine could be resurfaced'
  6. 6'Suspected anarchists' carry out two attacks in Buenos Aires; Police arrest 13
  7. 7Sergio Massa renews criticism of 'unfair and unsustainable’ IMF loan
  8. 8Reports suggest Saudi crown prince will attend G20 summit
  9. 9Macri picks the wrong opposition
  10. 10Defence Ministry: We lack technology to explore raising ARA San Juan