Brazil Heads to a Runoff as Far-Right Candidate Jair Bolsonaro Fails to Win Majority

October 8, 2018, 1:13 PM UTC
Elections in Brazil
07 October 2018, Brazil, Rio De Janeiro: Supporters of the right-wing populist candidate in the presidential election, Bolsonaro, cheer during the elections and wait for the election results. Right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro has clearly won the first round of the presidential election in Brazil. The ex-military received 46.70 percent of the votes, as the election office announced on Sunday 07.10.2018 after the counting of almost all ballot boxes. In second place was Fernando Haddad of the Left Workers Party with 28.37 percent of the vote. The two top ranked players will meet in the run-off election in three weeks. Photo: Ian Cheibub/dpa (Photo by Ian Cheibub/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Ian Cheibub—picture alliance via Getty Image

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.