Has Jair Bolsonaro reached his ceiling?

. Sep 25, 2018
poll Jair Bolsonaro hospital Poll shows Jair Bolsonaro consolidated ahead

After consistently growing in all polls since September 6, when he suffered an assassination attempt, far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro stalled at 28 percent of voting intentions in the most recent Ibope poll. Meanwhile, Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad has closed the gap between the two, jumping from 19 to 22 percent – outside the margin of error. But the rise of Mr. Haddad is by no means the only bad news for the Bolsonaro camp – nor is it the worst news. Besides not growing in supporters, Mr. Bolsonaro has also gained more haters.

</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9045" src="" alt="ibope poll brazil presidential election" width="1024" height="683" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">His rejection levels &#8211; which were already topping all other candidates&#8217; &#8211; grew even further, reaching 46 percent. In second-round projections, he loses against any other possible opponent except Marina Silva, with </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lula&#8217;s understudy</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Fernando Haddad pipping him by 43 to 37 percent.</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9046" src="" alt="" width="1024" height="683" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some analysts have rushed to </span><a href=",analise-pesquisa-ibope-mostra-que-bolsonaro-pode-ter-batido-no-teto,70002517486"><span style="font-weight: 400;">say</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that former Army captain Mr. Bolsonaro might have reached his ceiling. We wouldn&#8217;t go that far. If this electoral cycle has taught us anything, it is that wishful thinking has contaminated political analysis in Brazil. Of course Brazilians wouldn&#8217;t be crazy enough to vote for a man who praises torturers and says he doesn&#8217;t understand the first thing about economics to anyone who will listen. Of course his lack of partisan structure and television and radio airtime would prevent him from keeping his lead. Of course voters would prefer moderate candidates in the general election.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And yet, the campaign debunked each of these postulates one at a time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Back in February 2017, I wrote in the now-deactivated (the precursor of </span><b>The Brazilian Report</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">) that Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s potential shouldn’t be ignored &#8211; nor the danger that might come with it (you can read </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">6 reasons why Jair Bolsonaro could become Brazil&#8217;s next president </span></i><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">here</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">). And lowering our guards to him could come back to haunt us come October 7.</span></p> <h2>How Jair Bolsonaro rose to the pole position</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For months now, Mr. Bolsonaro has enjoyed a comfortable lead in scenarios which don&#8217;t include former president Lula as a candidate. His campaign has been running for at least a couple of years now, with excellent use of social media. While the rest of the candidates were quiet, Mr. Bolsonaro was gathering online supporters &#8211; an army that now engages in topics related to the election and that helps him organize events wherever he goes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The 2015-2016 movement for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff propelled Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s rise to stardom. I remember covering a March 13, 2016 protest against the then-embattled leader. Four sound trucks tried to pump up the crowd, punished by a sweltering 37°C (98°F) heat. But nothing had the galvanizing effect of Congressman Jair Bolsonaro’s arrival. He walked through the crowd, hugging people, smiling, taking selfies with fans, while his followers shouted “Bolsonaro, the legend.” Just a few meters away, people could buy a “President Bolsonaro” t-shirt for BRL 20.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Every democracy has its Bolsonaro. And this can partially be explained by the current representation crisis we’re facing. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“When people stop believing in the democratic system, it facilitates the rise of ‘national saviors.’ This kind of thing is even stronger in a country like Brazil, where politics is based on personality rather than on ideas,” political scientist Dulce Pandolfi, a professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro, told </span><b>The Brazilian Report</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Ironically enough, Bolsonaro’s middle name is Messias (literally meaning messiah in Portuguese).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">His support is, of course, also fueled by an enraged anti-Workers&#8217; Party sentiment in Brazil &#8211; especially in wealthier areas. Voters who loathe the Workers&#8217; Party &#8211; and especially its main leader Lula &#8211; tend to make the (false) equivalence between both sides. Lula and Bolsonaro are sometimes seen as equally extreme, simply two sides of the same coin. That&#8217;s not the case, as we have shown in other </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">articles</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <h2>The growing opposition to Jair Bolsonaro</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The same social networks that have propelled Mr. Bolsonaro now are being used against him. Groups of women have launched the hashtag #EleNao (Not Him) to show their disgust for a candidate who said a congresswoman didn&#8217;t even deserve to be raped. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Earlier this month, a Facebook group called </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;Women against Bolsonaro&#8221;</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> gathered over 3 million netizens. Finally, over this weekend, a group of hundreds of intellectuals, political scientists, lawyers, historians, business people, and athletes signed a manifesto against the candidate. Mr. Bolsonaro is also suffering constant attacks on television and radio from the remaining candidates. And as he is a member of a tiny party, he has no airtime of his own to fight back. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These factors could explain why rejection rates have grown for Mr. Bolsonaro &#8211; but it might be too early to count him out.</span></p> <h2>Why the election is not yet lost for Jair Bolsonaro</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some weeks ago, Mr. Bolsonaro had stalled at around 20 percent of voting intentions. That changed after he was stabbed in the abdomen on September 6. Since then, he gained 8 points, and his allies even called for an effort to decide the election in the first round &#8211; without the need for a runoff stage. That possibility seems more far-fetched now, as he would have to experience a meteoric rise in less than two weeks.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The stabbing didn&#8217;t earn Mr. Bolsonaro any sympathy votes &#8211; as only 2 percent of the electorate admitted to changing their opinion after the attack. But his rise is due to the increased exposure the attack earned him. That&#8217;s why, despite lacking party structure and not being able to campaign from the hospital, he has risen in polls.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a runoff stage, he would get 10 minutes of television and radio airtime &#8211; the same as his opponent. And if he has proven something this year, is his capacity to cause damage. 

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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