By Dianne Jeantet and Carla Bridi | Associated Press
RIO DE JANEIRO – Jair Bolsonaro surpassed expectations in Brazil’s presidential election, proving that the far-right wave he rode to the presidency is still a force.
Most polls had shown left-wing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by a significant margin, with some suggesting he could even clinch a first-round victory on Sunday, showing margins approaching double digits or exceeded him. But Bolsonaro came within five points of da Silva, who he will face in a high-stakes runoff on October 30.
According to the Brazilian electoral authority, Da Silva almost had an absolute majority with 48.4 percent of the vote compared to Bolsonaro’s 43.2 percent. Nine other candidates share the rest.
“There’s still a lot of questions about Bolsonaro’s election, there’s a lot of discussion of an awkward vote for Bolsonaro among people who said they would vote for a third-way candidate… but that alone doesn’t explain everything,” said Arilton Freres, director of the Curitiba-based Instituto Opinião, adding that outdated census data may also have had an impact on the survey design.
“Lula is starting at the front but it’s not going to be easy for him,” he said.
The vote was virtually free of the political violence that many had feared. Alexandre de Moraes, the Supreme Court Justice who also heads the Electoral Commission, congratulated Brazil on the “safe, calm, harmonious and peaceful” elections that demonstrated its democratic maturity.
But tensions remain high, as does the stakes. The election will determine whether the country returns a leftist to the top of the world’s fourth-largest democracy or keeps Bolsonaro in office for another term.
The past four years have been marked by his incendiary speech, the scrutiny of democratic institutions, the widely criticized handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in 15 years. But he has built a devoted base by defending conservative values and portraying himself as the nation’s protector from left-wing politics, which he says violate personal liberties and create economic turmoil.
“I understand that the population has a desire for change, but some changes can be for the worse,” Bolsonaro told reporters after the results were released. Bolsonaro has repeatedly claimed – without providing evidence – that the country’s electronic voting machines are vulnerable to fraud, but has not challenged the finding.
Da Silva is credited with building a sweeping social program during his 2003-2010 tenure that helped lift tens of millions into the middle class and fueled a surge in exports amid the global commodity boom. He is also known for his party’s involvement in corruption scandals and his own convictions, which were later overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled the judge was biased. This freed him from prison and cleared the way for his presidential candidacy.
According to analysts, many voters appeared to be turning to Bolsonaro after previously favoring candidates with little chance of winning. These also rans performed worse than expected.
“People who initially voted for Simone Tebet or Ciro Gomes (the third and fourth place finishers) decided at the last minute to vote for Bolsonaro,” said Nara Pavão, who teaches political science at the Federal University of Pernambuco.
The result “leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for the left, given what the polls have shown,” said Rafael Cortez, who oversees political risk at consultancy Tendencias Consultoria.
Bolsonaro and his allies have repeatedly questioned the reliability of pollsters like Datafolha, instead pointing to the large turnout at his street rallies.
“Many people have been carried away by the lies spread by research institutes,” Bolsonaro wrote on his Twitter profile on Monday. “All their predictions were wrong and they are already the biggest losers of this election. We beat that lie and now we’re going to win the election!”
The difference between Bolsonaro and da Silva in the first ballot was 6.1 million votes. Tebet and Gomes together received 8.5 million votes, and more than 30 million people abstained.
Although Tebet has hinted that she could urge her supporters to support da Silva, neither she nor Gomes have made a clear statement about who they will support on October 30th.
Following the results, da Silva said he was looking forward to more weeks of campaigning and the opportunity to face Bolsonaro in person and “make comparisons between the Brazil he built and the Brazil we built during our tenure.”
“I always thought that we would win these elections. And I’m telling you, we’re going to win this election. For us, it’s just an extension,” said da Silva.
The right’s positive night extended to races for governorships and congressional seats, particularly candidates with Bolsonaro’s blessing. His former infrastructure minister won the race for the Sao Paulo government. The governor of Rio de Janeiro, an ally, defeated his opponent and was immediately re-elected.
Sergio Moro, the former judge who temporarily jailed da Silva and was Bolsonaro’s former justice minister, defied the polls to win a Senate seat.
And Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party will overtake da Silva’s Labor Party to become the largest in the Senate and Lower House.
Among the winners were Bolsonaro’s former health minister, a general who oversaw the difficult management of the pandemic, and his former environment minister, who resigned amid an investigation into whether he had supported the export of illegally logged timber in the Amazon.
“The far right has shown great resilience in the presidential and state elections,” said Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in Sao Paulo.
Bolsonaro told reporters that his party’s appearance in Congress ahead of the Oct. 30 vote could bring new endorsements as other parties form alliances in exchange for support in the runoff.
“Brazil is much more polarized than many people thought, and governing will be difficult for whoever wins,” said Brian Winter, vice president for politics at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. “I think the next few weeks will weigh heavily on Brazilian democracy as these two men go head-to-head. Expect an ugly race that will leave scars.”
Bridi reported from Brasilia. AP authors Mauricio Savarese, Daniel Politi and David Biller reported from Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro.
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/03/surprisingly-strong-bolsonaro-forces-runoff-on-brazil/ Brazil’s left-wing presidential candidate had an electoral advantage, but right-wing incumbent rushed in to force runoff – Orange County Register