Jair Bolsonaro, whose last-minute surge almost gave him an electoral stunner, had 46 percent compared to 29 percent for former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
A right-wing former army captain won the first round of Brazil’s presidential election by a surprisingly large margin Sunday but fell just short of getting enough votes to avoid a runoff against a leftist rival.
Jair Bolsonaro, whose last-minute surge almost gave him an electoral stunner, had 46 percent compared to 29 percent for former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, according to figures from Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal. He needed over 50 percent support to win outright.
Polls predicted Bolsonaro would come out in front on Sunday, but he far outperformed expectations, blazing past competitors with more financing, institutional backing of parties and free airtime on television.
Despite the sizable victory, polls have shown the two candidates are neck-and-neck for the Oct. 28 runoff, and much could shift in the coming weeks.
Ultimately, Bolsonaro’s strong showing reflects a yearning for the past as much as a sign of the future. The candidate from the tiny Social and Liberal Party made savvy use of Twitter and Facebook to spread his message that only he could end the corruption, crime and economic malaise that has seized Brazil in recent years — and bring back the good old days and traditional values.
“This is a victory for honest people, who want the best for Brazil,” said Bianca Santos, 40-year-old psychologist, who added Bolsonaro would end high crime rates.
Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and it is a diplomatic heavyweight in the region. Bolsonaro has promised to shake up its foreign policy, including taking a harder line on Venezuela and other leftist regimes and forging closer ties with the US.
Brazil’s Workers’ Party, which in the center of a massive corruption investigation, attempted to portray Bolsonaro as a modern-day Brazilian Adolph Hitler.
In a video published Thursday by the party, Bolsonaro is seen making seemingly offensive comments and while images of Hitler were shown.
Considered pro-Israel, Bolsonaro has vowed to move the country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and has said he will close the Palestinian embassy in Brasilia.
“Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here,” Bolsonaro declared on Tuesday at the National Congress.
“You do not negotiate with terrorists,” he added.
Bolsonaro’s poll numbers jumped after he was stabbed during a campaign event on Sept. 6, after which he refused treatment at an Arab hospital in the country. He was unable to campaign or participate in debates as he underwent surgeries during a three-week hospital stay, but instead brought messages directly to voters via Facebook and Twitter.
He told an Israeli interviewer after the stabbing that a visit to the Jewish state would be his first diplomatic mission.