Jair Bolsonaro—the Brazilian right-wing presidential candidate who has made denigrating comments about democracy, women, and minorities—didn’t win an outright majority in national elections yesterday (Oct. 7), but he came close.
Bolsonaro, of the small Social Liberal Party, won 46% of the vote and will now enter a run-off in three weeks (Oct. 28) against Fernando Haddad, of the leftist Workers’ Party, who trailed him with 29% of the vote. More than 30 parties floated candidates in the election, in which an estimated 147 million people were expected to vote not only for president but also governors and legislators.
A former army captain, Bolsonaro has been compared to US president Donald Trump as well as to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, and like the latter, he admires Brazil’s dictatorial past. Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship for two decades after a coup in 1964. Bolsonaro believes Brazil needs iron-fisted rule to deal with problems that range from a faltering economy to widespread corruption and violent crime.
The rise of Bolsonaro comes as the leftist party founded by charismatic former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, who first won the presidency in 2002, lost support in recent years after its leadership became mired in corruption scandals and the economy weakened. Bolsonaro, who last month was stabbed on the campaign trail, has drawn support from young people, evangelical Christians, business groups, and even women, polls showed. Yet other Brazilians can’t bring themselves to even say his name, referring to him on social media platforms as “the thing.”
Haddad, who was the mayor of São Paulo, was only tapped to run by his party late in the race after Lula, who is in prison on corruption charges, was blocked from seeking office. Haddad isn’t as well known as Lula, who remains popular, and is tainted by association with the toxic baggage of Lula’s party.
Still, Bolsonaro hasn’t won yet. One way to look at Sunday’s results is that Brazil’s voters now have a last chance to defeat their Trump.