Bolsonaro defies expectations again, heads to second round against Lula

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RIO DE JANEIRO — For years, opponents have relied on an easy explanation for how a man like Jair Bolsonaro — profane, homophobic, prone to conspiracy theories — could have won the presidency of Latin America’s largest country.

The story implied that a extraordinary and unusual sequence of events leading up to the 2018 elections propelled the rise of the right-wing former army captain with an unusual fondness for Brazil’s military dictatorship. An extensive corruption investigation had banned much of Brazil’s political class, but not Bolsonaro. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was jailed and banned from running for president. And finally, weeks before the vote, there was a stabbing on the campaign trail. What didn’t kill him? breathed new life into his outsider bid.

His presidency seemed to confirm the statement. The polls consistently showed high disapproval rates as he lurched from controversy to controversy and from crisis to crisis. Everything seemed to point to a likely first-round loss for Bolsonaro on Sunday — a correction of what critics hoped was a historic aberration.

But Bolsonaro once again defied expectations.

Bolsonaro and Lula advance to the second round in Brazil elections

Not only did he outperform Sunday’s polls, winning 43 percent of the vote and a runoff election against rival Lula, but his allies posted unexpected gains across the country. His feast is now the largest in both houses of Congress. Candidates endorsed by Bolsonaro won 14 seats in the Senate, a chamber previously hostile to the president. Lula allies won only eight.

In the crucial states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro — together home to a quarter of the population — allies showed the same strength. In Rio, Governor Cláudio Castro won nearly 60 percent of the vote to defeat his left-wing challenger. And in São Paulo, Lula’s home state, where former governor João Doria often clashed with Bolsonaro over his response to the coronavirus, the presidential candidate beat Lula’s to gain the advantage en route to a runoff.

“We have everything we need to liberate Brazil from authoritarianism, from the bribery and injustice that infuriates us,” Bolsonaro tweeted Monday. “A more profound change is already beginning! It is not the people who should be afraid.”

Instead of confirming Bolsonaro’s weakness, Sunday’s returns showed his surprising strength. Brazil made it clear that it is not racing back to left-wing policies and the leaders who ran it before coming to power.

What you need to know about the elections in Brazil

“Bolsonarismo is strong and represents millions of Brazilians, rooted in itself and spreading throughout Brazilian society,” says the Federal University of São Paulo. sociologist Esther Solano, who studies the president’s supporters. “Bolsonarismo has come to stay and could even go beyond Bolsonaro.”

The president still appears to be headed for second-round defeat on October 30. Lula, who is looking for his third term as Brazilian president, defeated Bolsonaro in the first round by more than 6 million votes and won more than 48 percent of voters. He was only 2 million away from getting the 50 percent he needed to win in the first round. The polls, if we are to believe them, are still predicting a runoff victory.

The country remains highly polarized, drawn between two political giants fired in part by personal and mutual enmity. But a majority of voters have consistently said they will not vote for Bolsonaro. His bellicose rhetoric, his dismissal from a pandemic that has killed more than 686,000 Brazilians, his acts of political warfare against ideological opponents – it all remains a handicap on the way to the second round.

But Lula’s movement and its supporters nevertheless sounded defeated as they reckoned with a Brazil they didn’t recognize and a result they hadn’t expected.

“I’ve already cried,” Larissa Paglia, 28, said Sunday night on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo. “We did not expect this result. Even though it’s good for us, we didn’t expect it.”

Historians were less surprised. Brazil has an international reputation for a certain libertine approach to life – carnival, string bikinis, the Brazilian wax job – but in reality this is a very conservative country where right-wing movements have long found a strong following by appealing to Christian values .

Bolsonaro vs. Lula: A Referendum on Brazil’s Young Democracy

Bolsonarismo’s proponents — with his appeal to individual freedoms and his appreciation for the country’s vast, conservative interior — reflect much of that discourse, said Pedro Doria, a journalist and historian. In much the same way former President Donald Trump offered historical sources of resentment in the United States, Bolsonaro found his ground by channeling latent grievances and fears.

“These ideas are deeply rooted in Brazil,” he said. “Sometimes we think these ideas are gone, but political thinking isn’t something abstract that intellectuals paint in colleges, but the ideas people pass on to their children about what they think society should be like.”

“This conservative mindset runs deep in Brazil; it was never dead.”

Now the movement is poised to shape events in the country in the coming years. Seven of Bolsonaro’s former cabinet members, some of whom implemented some of his most controversial policy initiatives, were elected to Congress.

One was former Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, who oversaw the dismantling of institutions protecting the Amazon. Another was Eduardo Pazuello, who ran Bolsonaro’s contrarian coronavirus policy at the health ministry. Another was Damares Alves, his Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, who spent much of her time in the function of war culture.

In the state of Mato Grosso, Luiz Henrique Mandetta — a health minister who clashed with Bolsonaro over the president recommending unproven drugs to treat the coronavirus — was defeated by one of Bolsonaro’s former and loyal ministers.

“Even if Bolsonaro loses, the movement he has led so far will remain a powerful force,” said political scientist Matias Spektor, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. “It would curb the ambitions of a Lula government because it could block and complicate any movement.”

The Brazilian right is now dominated by Bolsonarismo. What remained of the moderate right, said political analyst and columnist Fábio Zanini, was “decimated” in Sunday’s vote. Bolsonaro is the undisputed standard-bearer.

“He could repeat some of what he did in 2018,” he said. “He is the man conservative Brazilians now look to as their representative.”

Pessoa reported from São Paulo. Paulina Villegas in Brasília contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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