Brazil: polls give Bolsonaro lead in run-off for presidency

Opponent Haddad’s campaign strategy suffers as debate vetoed due to Bolsonaro’s health

Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro remains firmly on course to be elected the next president of Brazil, according to the first opinion polls published since Sunday's initial round of voting.

These show the polemical former army captain maintains the commanding lead he carved out at the weekend over his left-wing opponent Fernando Haddad, with the Datafolha agency putting his advantage at 16 percentage points.

In a blow to his campaign's strategy, chances for Mr Haddad to directly confront his opponent ahead of the October 28th run-off will be few after Mr Bolsonaro's doctors said on Wednesday they had vetoed his taking part in debates between the two men before the 18th because of his health. Mr Bolsonaro is recovering at home in Rio de Janeiro following his near-fatal stabbing at a campaign rally last month.

Mr Haddad has clearly targeted his opponent’s tenuous grasp of the principal issues that will face the incoming president as Mr Bolsonaro’s main vulnerability among voters, a majority of whom now seem unconcerned or willing to overlook his racism, misogyny and homophobia. “I will go to the infirmary to do the debate, no problem,” said Mr Haddad on hearing his opponent was too unwell to face him.



Having focused on maintaining its dominance of Brazil's left ahead of Sunday's first round of voting, the Workers Party is now trying to pivot towards the centre ground as Mr Haddad attempts to haul in his opponent. But the strategy is facing challenges. The manner in which the party undercut the campaign of the other leading left-wing candidate Ciro Gomes, who came third on Sunday, is complicating efforts to firm up backing for Mr Haddad among the broader Brazilian left.

Still bruised by his treatment at the hands of the Workers Party, Mr Gomes is reportedly resisting calls to publicly campaign with Mr Haddad and announce he would accept a leading economics ministry should he win.

Meanwhile the social democrats, the Workers Party's traditional centre-right rival, which was routed by Mr Bolsonaro's hard-right coalition on Sunday, said it would remain neutral in the run-off. Party founder and former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso was accused of "cowardice" for refusing to stand against the advance of the far right. Polls show social democratic voters are migrating to Mr Bolsonaro even as its candidates in run-off races for state governorships are courting the Bolsonaro vote.

Political prisoner

In a bid to reach beyond the left Mr Haddad has already announced that he will not visit the party's jailed leader, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, during the rest of the campaign after he was criticised for doing so on Monday. While Mr Haddad and his party treat Lula as a political prisoner, opinion polls show a majority of Brazilians consider his 12-year sentence for corruption fair.

Lula’s image has also disappeared from Mr Haddad’s campaign materials while these have also seen the Workers Party’s traditional red replaced by the colours of the Brazilian flag.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America