Brazil’s political polarization increases as far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the Presidential election by a majority of 55.2%, comfortably ahead of Fernando Haddad, the candidate of the centre-left Workers’ Party (PT), who had 44.8 percent.
Bolsonaro addressed the nation through Facebook Live, instead of a traditional press conference because of security concerns. In September, he suffered a near-fatal stabbing at a campaign rally.
“We can no longer be flirting with socialism, communism, populism and extremism on the left,” stated the President-Elect in his victory speech.
Bolsonaro said the US President Donald Trump called to wish him goodluck after his victory, terming the call “obviously a very friendly contact”. Throughout his campaign Bolsonaro had shown a high regard for Trump’s policies and ideology, winning him the nickname “Tropical Trump”.
After the election results were announced Bolsonaro’s supporters flooded the street in Brazil’s green and yellow under banners of the newly elected presidents face and his slogan “Brazil above everything, God above everyone”.
Bolsonaro rejected claims that he will turn Brazil into an authoritarian state and vowed the defend “the Constitution, democracy and freedom”.
“This is not the promise of a party, nor the word of a man. It is an oath before God,” he said in his victory speech.
PT had won the last four elections in Brazil, while its popular founder Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva was the frontrunner this year until being barred from running in September because of a corruption conviction.
Bolsonaro promised to bring peace, safety and stability to the South American republic which is plagued with gang wars and violence. Last year Brazil had 64,000 cases of homicide. To tackle the problem Bolsonaro will increase gun ownership and allowing the police to kill. He has stated before that a policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a “real” policeman.
“He’ll give us the security that the country needs, behind this education and healthcare will follow,” said Maria Lucia de Almeida, 84, a retired Sao Paulo teacher, “He’s honest.”
But to other voters, Bolsonaro is considered an authoritarian and a threat to democracy. He has a history of disparaging remarks against LGBT people, women, and minorities and has spoken of his support for torture and extrajudicial police killings.
“He’s made it clear that he doesn’t want to sit and have a dialogue with those that think different from him,” said Pedro Igor Mantoun, 29, a corporate lawyer from Sao Paulo, who voted for Haddad.
“For any country, this is a bad thing but especially for one with such a young democracy as ours.”
Bolsonaro’s rise from a fringe congressman to the presidency has come against a backdrop of economic downturn, political turmoil, mammoth corruption scandals and rising violence.
Bolsonaro – a former army captain – is an outspoken supporter of Brazil’s brutal and repressive 1964-1985 military dictatorship, a period when hundreds of political opponents were murdered by the state and thousands more tortured.
Last Sunday, during a confrontational speech transmitted to thousands of supporters, Bolsonaro said “red (leftist) criminals” would be “banished from our homeland” and pledged a “cleansing never seen before”.
After suffering defeat, Haddad said on Sunday he would work to “defend the freedoms of these 45 million” people who voted for him.