Supporters of the right-wing populist candidate in the presidential election, Bolsonaro, cheer during the elections and wait for the election results.
Ian Cheibub—picture alliance via Getty Image
By Natasha Bach
October 8, 2018

Far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro fell short of winning an outright majority in the Brazilian election on Sunday.

Bolsonaro won just shy of 47% of the vote, short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. Nevertheless, his nearest rival trailed him significantly, taking 29%.

Bolsonaro will now face leftist Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad in a runoff election on October 28, where the former is widely expected to win. It will mark the first presidential loss for the leftists since 2002.

Bolsonaro’s party, the Social Liberal Party (PSL), also performed well in Sunday’s elections and is on the path to becoming the largest party in Brazil’s Congress. Like Bolsonaro himself, the party has tapped into Brazilians’ frustration with a recession, violent crime, and corruption, much of which the population increasingly blames on the Workers’ Party.

Using language like “Let’s make Brazil great! Let’s be proud of our homeland again!,” Bolsonaro has been seen to have established himself in the mold of U.S. President Donal Trump. Like Trump, Bolsonaro is a frequent user of social media and has not shied away from sparking controversy.

Bolsonaro has spoken in favor of dictatorships and has more broadly sought to run on a platform of law and order. While he wants to root out violent crime and has advocated for tough punishments for offenders, Bolsonaro has simultaneously called for a loosening of gun laws. He has also expressed support for torture and the death penalty.

Bolsonaro has derided gays, women, and minorities, calling for parents to beat their children to stop them from turning gay and telling minorities to “bow to the majority or simply disappear.” He called a female member of Congress too ugly to rape and has called immigrants “scum.”

Haddad, meanwhile, only became the Workers’ Party candidate last minute, after former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was banned from running for office from prison, where he is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption. While Haddad has run on a message of defending democracy and respect for human rights, many voters blame the country’s recent recession on the party and fear it could plunge them back into recession again.

Ultimately, many have said they will cast their vote for whomever they believe to be the “least worst” candidate.

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