Jair Bolsonaro: Far-right candidate wins Brazil poll


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Media captionRival supporters argue after Brazil poll result

Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro has won a sweeping victory in Brazil’s presidential election.

Mr Bolsonaro won 55.2% of the votes cast against 44.8% for Fernando Haddad from the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), election officials said.

Mr Bolsonaro campaigned on a promise to eradicate corruption and to drive down Brazil’s high crime levels.

The election campaign has been deeply divisive. Each camp argued that victory for the other could destroy Brazil.

What does it mean?

Mr Bolsonaro’s victory constitutes a markedly rightward swing in the largest democracy in Latin America, which was governed by the PT for 13 years between 2003 and 2016.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jair Bolsonaro won by more than 10 percentage points

For the past two years, the country has been led by a conservative, Michel Temer, following the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. But Mr Temer has proven deeply unpopular with Brazilians.

With the outgoing president’s approval rating at a record low of 2%, voters clamoured for change but they were deeply divided on which way that change should go.

Mr Bolsonaro’s 10-percentage-point victory means the vision he laid out to voters of a Brazil where law and order and family values would be made the priority won out.

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Who is Bolsonaro and what is he likely to do once in office?

The 63-year-old is a retired army officer and member of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), an anti-establishment group that combines social conservatism and pro-market policies.

Mr Bolsonaro is a deeply polarizing figure whose remarks on a range of issues – including abortion, race, migration and homosexuality – earned him the nickname of “Trump of the Tropics”.

He has the past defended the killing of opponents to the country’s former military regime and said he is “in favour of dictatorship”.

But after the results came in, he told supporters he would be a “defender of democracy” and uphold the constitution.

One of his flagship policies is to restore security by relax gun laws and suggested that “every honest citizens” should be able to own a gun.

He has promised to reduce state intervention in the economy and indicated that Brazil could pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Mr Bolsonaro’s promise to “cleanse” Brazil of corruption has proved particularly popular in a country that has seen dozens of politicians from the mainstream parties jailed.

He takes over on 1 January 2019.

How did the vote break down?

Mr Haddad won in the north-east of Brazil, the heartland of the Workers’ Party and the stronghold of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whom Mr Haddad replaced on the Workers’ Party ticket after Lula was barred from running.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Fernando Haddad said he would fight for the 45 million Brazilians who had not voted for Mr Bolsonaro

But Mr Bolsonaro won in all other parts of the country, and in some of them by a very large majority, ultimately giving him a sweeping overall victory.

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Presidential Election Results

% valid votes, excluding blank and invalid votes

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Uncertain times

Analysis by BBC’s Katy Watson in Sao Paulo

Image copyright EPA

Even before the results came out, Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters were dancing for joy – so confident were they of victory.

His promises to get tough on rising crime and his claims of being a clean politician – in a country where many of his rivals have been mired in corruption scandals – have won him millions of admirers.

But his win is going to be a blow for millions.

His links to the military and admiration for the former dictatorship concern many Brazilians, as do his sexist, racist and homophobic remarks.

These are uncertain times, with many worried that – with Mr Bolsonaro in power – the gains made in Brazil since the country returned to democracy 30 years ago could be erased.

Does Mr Bolsonaro have backing in Congress?

Yes and no.

On the one hand, his PSL party achieved a remarkable breakthrough in this month’s legislative election, increasing its representation from one to 52 seats in the lower house.

However Mr Haddad’s PT remains the largest party, with 56 seats.

But most ominously for Mr Bolsonaro, there will be a record 30 parties represented in the next Congress.

This suggest that finding backing for legislation could be difficult for the new president.

What about reaction from outside Brazil?

A number of Latin American leaders congratulated Mr Bolsonaro:

  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri described the poll results as Mr Bolsonaro’s “triumph”
  • Chilean President Sebastián Piñera congratulated Brazilians for a “clean and democratic election”
  • Colombia’s Ivan Duque welcomed the result and called for the two countries’ “brotherly relations” to be strengthened further
  • Mexican outgoing President President Enrique Peña Nieto hailed Brazil’s “democratic strength”
  • Peru’s Martin Vizcarra wished Mr Bolsonaro “full success”
  • Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro extended his “congratulations to the people of Brazil”

And the US president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said on Sunday: “President Trump called President-elect Bolsonaro of Brazil this evening to congratulate him and the Brazilian people on today’s elections. Both expressed a strong commitment to work side by side to improve the lives of the people of the United States and Brazil.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said that taking into account his campaign pledges, Mr Bolsonaro’s victory could pose a “huge risk” to Brazil’s indigenous peoples, LGBT communities, black youth, women, activists and civil society organisations.

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