Bolsonaro poised to win presidency as Brazil swings right

Former army captain admires country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and defends its use of torture on leftist opponents

Supporters of Brazilian far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro take part in a campaign rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil on October 27, 2018. Photograph: AFP)NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

Supporters of Brazilian far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro take part in a campaign rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil on October 27, 2018. Photograph: AFP)NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

 

Brazilians fed up with political corruption and rising crime are expected to vote in former army captain Jair Bolsonaro as their president on Sunday in a turbulent swing to the right.

Mr Bolsonaro’s sudden rise was propelled by rejection of the leftist Workers Party (PT) that ran Brazil, in the world’s fourth-largest democracy, for 13 of the last 15 years and was ousted two years ago in the midst of the country’s worst recession and biggest graft and bribery scandal.

His leftist rival Fernando Haddad, standing in for jailed PT founder and former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has been trailing Mr Bolsonaro since the first round vote three weeks ago.

Final opinion polls on Saturday showing Mr Haddad gaining momentum and endorsements from leading legal figures in Brazil’s fight against political corruption have raised hopes among his supporters that he can pull off what would be a stunning upset win.

Mr Haddad has reduced Mr Bolsonaro’s lead from 12 to 8 percentage points in five days, according to the Ibope polling firm that gave him 46 per cent of voter support compared with Mr Bolsonaro’s 54 per cent. Another poll also released late Saturday showed Mr Bolsonaro had 55 per cent and Mr Haddad 45 pe cent.

Many Brazilians are concerned that Mr Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and a defender of its use of torture on leftist opponents, will trample on human rights, curtail civil liberties and muzzle freedom of speech.

The 63-year-old seven-term congressman has vowed to crack down on crime in Brazil’s cities and farm belt by granting police more autonomy to shoot at armed criminals and easing gun laws to allow Brazilians to buy weapons to fight crime, a major demand by one of his biggest backers, the powerful farm lobby.

“This is not just an election. We only have two options: to turn right or left, and we all know where the left took us for 13 years with the PT,” Mr Bolsonaro said in his final video address to supporters on Saturday evening. “We want a free Brazil.”

However, Mr Bolsonaro’s critics fear he will allow commercial farming and mining to penetrate on Indian reservations, which he has said he will not expand by a single centimetre if he is elected.

He told Xingu tribes people on Friday they had the right to charge royalties for mining and hydro electric power generation on their reservations, a proposal welcomed by some natives but rejected by anthropologists and environmentalists who see the tribes as the last guardians of the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity.

“You are as Brazilian as any of us,” he said in a video posted on social media. “I want you to have the right to use your land and exploit its biodiversity and mineral riches.” – Reuters