Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – who is trailing in pre-election polls but has seen the gap between him and left-wing rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva narrow – has "every chance" of being re-elected, according to a political analyst.
The poll disparity between the two frontrunners ahead of October's presidential election has shrunk by 10 points in the last four months.
Bolsonaro trailed Lula by 21 points at the end of May, according to polling by the benchmark institute Datafolha, but that gap had narrowed to 11 points last Friday.
Leandro Gabiati, director of consulting firm Dominica, explained to the AFP news agency some of the dynamics currently playing out in Brazil's presidential campaign.
Where has Bolsonaro's recent favourable momentum come from?
Bolsonaro has "made very few mistakes" lately," Gabiati said.
"Generally speaking, he has benefited from the exceptional social spending approved by Congress in July, and other measures to combat inflation," he said. "That has enabled him to improve the population's perception of their purchasing power, which had been Bolsonaro's main handicap."
And even though food is still expensive, fuel prices have come down, and Brazil's 20 million poorest families have seen their monthly allowance from the government increase from 400 reais to 600 (US$79 to US$118).
Despite two blunders on TV – he responded aggressively to two female reporters – Bolsonaro has been less combative recently, Gabiati said, making fewer attacks on government institutions such as the electoral system and the Supreme Court.
"That helped reassure the more moderate electorate," Gabiati said.
How have the September 7th Brazilian independence demonstrations – during which Bolsonaro waved from an open-top vehicle – affected the race?
In short, the effect has been "very positive," Gabiati said.
“The news channels showed him all day surrounded by many [supportive] demonstrators," he explained, "with a crowd as far as the eye can see."
Bolsonaro's campaign also used the images to their advantage on social media, according to Gabiati, which he said ultimately outweighed criticism by opponents accusing the president of appropriating the national holiday for his own political gains.
Does Jair Bolsonaro still have a chance of being re-elected?
"Yes, definitely," Gabiati said.
A month ago, it seemed possible Lula might win an outright majority in the first round of voting, he said. But now, that seems "practically impossible."
Lula has stagnated in the polls, he seems to have hit a ceiling," Gabiati said.
Even still, if the poll gap continues to narrow at the current rate, it won't be enough for Bolsonaro to catch up.
But, Gabiati cautions, nothing is set in stone until Brazilians go to the polls – the first round of voting is October 2, with the second round October 30 – and they have plenty of time to change their minds between now and then.
“Bolsonaro is in a new dynamic, with re-energised supporters," he said. "He still has every chance."
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg