Brazil looking likely to elect far-right Bolsonaro as president

RIO DE JANEIRO: Barring any last-minute upset, Brazil appears poised to elect Jair Bolsonaro, a populist far-right veteran politician, as its next president in a week’s time.
His lead seems insurmountable over his leftist rival Fernando Haddad ahead of the October 28 run-off, with most voters swayed by his anti-corruption promises — while a minority fears his authoritarian bent and intolerant views.
In the first round two weeks ago, Bolsonaro handily beat a dozen other candidates, garnering 46 per cent of the vote. Polls since then suggest his support has climbed to 59 per cent, against 41 per cent for Haddad.
Much of his appeal lies in his image as a “clean” political outsider who wants to crack down on rampant crime and stamp out graft in Latin America’s biggest, most populous nation.
His virulent attacks on Haddad’s Workers Party — widely seen as a corrupt outfit under now-jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the cause of Brazil’s worst-ever recession — have worked to his advantage. So has the endorsement of many of Brazil’s increasingly influential evangelical churches.
But opposition to Bolsonaro, while smaller, is fierce and won’t go away.
Demonstrations in Brazil over the weekend both for and against Bolsonaro highlighted the deep polarization.
Bolsonaro’s profile got a boost when he was stabbed last month by a lone assailant while campaigning for the first round.
During weeks of convalescence he intensified his already deft use of social media to speak directly to his millions of followers, largely ducking interviews with journalists.
That, and his controversial, tough-guy way of talking have added to comparisons many have made with US President Donald Trump. Others see shades of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Italian media have called Bolsonaro “Brazil’s Salvini,” after Italy’s far-right interior minister.
The use of WhatsApp in particular has become a controversial issue in Brazil, after a report that $3 million contracts had been made with several companies to bulk-message voters with attacks on the Workers Party.
The app is wildly popular in Brazil, used by more than half of the population of 210 million.
Haddad, already frustrated by Bolsonaro’s refusal to engage him in scheduled televised debates, accused his rival of being behind the “illegal” disinformation campaign, which he said needed to be investigated by electoral authorities.