Will Brazil’s far-right make a push for a first-round win?

. Oct 05, 2018
brazil far-right bolsonaro president 2018 election Brazil's far-right seem favorite to win

What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad’s steep ascending trend gave pundits reason to believe that he would finish the first round ahead of frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro. On Sunday, a poll by MDA/CNT showed Mr. Haddad statistically tied with Mr. Bolsonaro. “I forecast that [Haddad] will finish the first round with 35 percent of valid votes,” said political scientist Alberto Carlos Almeida on Twitter.

Now, Mr. Haddad faces the possibility of the election not even reaching the runoff stage, as Mr. Bolsonaro makes a push for a first-round win. He currently stands at 39 percent of valid votes (discounting spoiled ballots), against the Workers’ Party’s 25 percent. While climbing 11 points in two days seems a lot, there is clearly a wave of support in favor of the far-right candidate.

His polling numbers have skyrocketed over the past month, going from 24 percent of total votes on September 10 to 35 percent on October 4. When we count only valid votes, Mr. Bolsonaro is at 39 percent. And the latter is the metric that counts the most, as candidates require over 50 percent of valid votes to win in the first round.

</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9434" src="" alt="brazil far-right bolsonaro president 2018 election" width="1024" height="433" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9433" src="" alt="brazil far-right bolsonaro president 2018 election" width="1024" height="404" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It may seem impossible for him to grow by 11 points in two days &#8211; however, it is anything </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">but</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> impossible. The gap to a Bolsonaro first-round win is not 11 points, but rather 5.5 points. As the rate of voters who intend to spoil their ballots has reached a new low (only 6 percent), vote swing will now happen from candidate to candidate. Every vote Mr. Bolsonaro gets from a competitor counts double for percentage calculations.</span></p> <h2>Too little, too late?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Workers&#8217; Party &#8211; and perhaps every single observer of the election, including yours truly &#8211; believed that its best shot at winning back the presidency would be against Jair Bolsonaro. Rejected by almost half of the electorate, it would be &#8220;easier&#8221; to convince voters that anyone else would be the lesser evil. And how we were wrong.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Of course, Mr. Haddad was not helped by his allies. Moronic statements by members of the Workers&#8217; Party saying he would pardon Lula immediately after taking office has surely hindered him, as the election gets further polarized.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Inexplicably, though, the party has adopted a passive posture against the former Army captain. At the same time, Mr. Haddad brought almost nothing new to the table, focusing on the same discourse that the economic crisis was exclusively a result of a combination of an international crisis and conservative sabotage. His campaign took too long to turn on Mr. Bolsonaro. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We can&#8217;t say that it was because the Workers&#8217; Party wanted a &#8220;clean campaign,&#8221; based only on proposals. Few political players master the art of low blows like the Workers&#8217; Party. In 2014, as soon as Marina Silva began looking like a threat, she was vilified by all sorts of dishonest ads &#8211; which said her economic proposals aimed at &#8220;taking food from the tables of low-income families.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s latest push, the alarm bell has finally rung on the Haddad camp. Their strategy now consists of deconstructing Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s image based on three issues: his fondness for torture and known torturers, his previous statements that workers&#8217; would have to choose between rights and jobs, and his VP nominee&#8217;s criticism of the 13th salary for workers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On Twitter, the candidate said he has &#8220;decided to defend [himself].&#8221;</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="pt"> <p dir="ltr" lang="pt">Eu comecei a me defender. Nós mantivemos até aqui um campanha propositiva, só que agora chegou o momento de nos defendermos nessa reta final porque é grave o que está acontecendo no WhatsApp.</p> <p>— Fernando Haddad 13 (@Haddad_Fernando) <a href="">3 de outubro de 2018</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With Election Day two days away, will that be too little, too late?</span></p> <h2>Last presidential debate</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign, the frontrunner had not been cleared by doctors to participate in yesterday&#8217;s debate, as he was unable to talk for over 10 minutes. However, during the airing of the debate, Mr. Bolsonaro gave a 25-minute interview to rival station Record TV &#8211; owned by an <a href="">open supporter</a> of the far-right candidate.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Helped by docile, open-ended questions, the far-right candidate showed himself as the candidate who would guide Brazil past its &#8220;leftist indoctrination.&#8221; He also accused the Workers&#8217; Party of promoting a smear campaign against him but said he had no control over whether his supporters shared fake news themselves. At no point did the interviewer throw him a curve ball.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The interview is part of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s push for a first-round win. It is not the most likely scenario, but it could happen &#8211; as there is clearly a wave in his favor.</span></p> <h2>The new conservative, far-right leader</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This week, he got the formal support of traditional conservative organized groups, such as the Rural Caucus in Congress, followed by the Evangelical Caucus, and the so-called Bullet Caucus (conservative congressmen driven by issues of public security and lobbying for fewer gun control restrictions). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That support neutralizes a common argument against Mr. Bolsonaro, that he wouldn&#8217;t have the necessary congressional support to approve his agenda. With the hardcore conservatives behind him, Mr. Bolsonaro could have close to the half of the lower house in his corner. And there are talks of creating a new party, unifying landowners, gun lobbyists, and evangelicals &#8211; which would give him even more control over Congress.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make no mistake, if Mr. Bolsonaro gets elected, he will have immense power &#8211; which is even scarier than the prospect of a rogue head of state at odds with the establishment. And, according to sources familiar with those negotiations, high-ranked military officials are already drawing up the cabinet of a future Bolsonaro administration.

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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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