The far-right got a colossal Sunday win.

Early in 2015, I wrote an article to French website Médiapart called “In Brazil, conservatism advances.” The article concerned the widespread defeats to the Workers’ Party and how Brazil’s Congress was the most conservative it had been since the 1964 military coup. Yesterday, however, Brazilians chose to push the country even further to the right, favoring conservative (and often extremist) candidates in all branches of government – for Congress, the Senate, gubernatorial races, and, of course, for president.

It was the biggest electoral win of the right-wing since the generals left power in the mid-1980s. Former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro got nearly 50 million votes and was not far off a first-round win. Four years ago, his minuscule Social Liberal Party elected just one congressman. Yesterday, it became the second-biggest party in the lower house. His son Eduardo deserves some of the credit, having become the best-voted candidate for Congress in Brazilian history with 1.8 million votes in São Paulo.

Only one candidate got more votes than Eduardo Bolsonaro: Janaína Paschoal, who ran for the state legislature in São Paulo. Ms. Paschoal, who was tipped to be Jair Bolsonaro’s running mate at one point, overcame the 2-million mark.

It was not a conservative wave. It was a far-right tsunami.

</span></p> <hr /> <p><img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9556" src="" alt="Presidential elections in Brazil: polls and results" width="1024" height="672" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9572" src="" alt="Brazil turns to the far-right" width="781" height="1024" srcset=" 781w, 229w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 781px) 100vw, 781px" /></p> <hr /> <p><img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9573" src="" alt="Brazil turns to the far-right" width="1024" height="959" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;I fear that a Bolsonaro administration will be worse than the military government,&#8221; said political scientist César Benjamin, during a live podcast by monthly magazine Piauí. &#8220;He has on his side a mobilization of groups and masses that the dictatorship didn&#8217;t have. Once he gets to the presidency, a landowner could see it as a message to unleash his henchmen &#8211; and a policeman who is a member of death squads might feel he can take it up a notch.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Indeed, there are reasons for worry: Mr. Bolsonaro has said in the past that the police should shoot to kill and that officers who kill 10, 15, 20 criminals should be given medals, and not punished.</span></p> <h2>The Bolsonaro effect on state races</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Declaring support for Mr. Bolsonaro proved to be a winning formula for many gubernatorial candidates. In Rio de Janeiro, the ultra-conservative former judge Wilson Witzel was a little-known candidate polling at 3 percent four days before the election. His support for Mr. Bolsonaro pushed him to 41 percent of valid votes on Sunday &#8211; ahead of former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes (19 percent), who led the polls until Election Day. The two will now face off in a second round.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Minas Gerais, the country&#8217;s second-biggest electoral base, one single week saw libertarian candidate Romeu Zema jump by 30 points &#8211; finishing in a much better position than former governor Antonio Anastasia. Last Tuesday, he said: &#8220;Those who want change should vote for one of the new candidates out there, such as João Amoêdo [his fellow party member] or [Mr.] Bolsonaro.&#8221; Boom. That was enough for him to finish with 43 percent of valid votes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On the flipside, the two parties that were central to the framing of Brazil&#8217;s 30-year-old Constitution, and to the very process of democratization in the 1980s. No other party lost more congressional seats than the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) and the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) party. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These are the parties of disgraced politicians such as Aécio Neves and President Michel Temer, both of whom were taped while doing shady business with meat-packing billionaire Joesley Batista. President Temer was negotiating hush money to a former Speaker of the House in prison, while Mr. Neves asked for BRL 2 million from Mr. Batista. Ironically, Mr. Neves managed to win a seat in the lower house for himself.</span></p> <h2>A second chance for the Workers&#8217; Party</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the campaign, candidate Ciro Gomes, who finished the race in the third place, called himself a member of the &#8220;extreme center,&#8221; as a way to differentiate himself from the Workers&#8217; Party and the far right. It didn&#8217;t work, as many voters are still faithful to jailed former president Lula and voted for the guy he endorsed. However, <a href="">Fernando Haddad</a> could repeat Mr. Gomes&#8217; strategy in the <a href="">runoff stage against Jair Bolsonaro</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To win the presidency, he must change his strategy &#8211; and quickly. Even his campaign manager, Emídio de Souza, has recognized that. However, the party&#8217;s next steps remain to be seen. Mr. Haddad was undoubtedly hindered by some idiotic remarks made by party chairperson Gleisi Hoffmann and Minas Gerais Governor Fernando Pimentel, who mentioned that Mr. Haddad &#8220;would pardon Lula the minute he takes office.&#8221; </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They were trying to get votes from Lula supporters. For Mr. Pimentel, the strategy didn&#8217;t work, and he failed to even get to the runoff stage. Moreover, they certainly didn&#8217;t win many votes for their presidential candidate, as while he is still Brazil&#8217;s most influential politician, Lula&#8217;s image is also widely rejected around the country.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Workers&#8217; Party has been handed a rare thing in politics: a second chance. Of course, it was more because of the shortcomings of its adversaries than by its own merits, but the party could still win its fifth-straight presidential race. This time, though, the center-left group faces its hardest challenge.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The path to the presidency demands a change of rhetoric. First, the party must embrace fiscal responsibility &#8211; something that was lacking in the Dilma Rousseff&#8217;s administration. It must also abandon its stubborn way of dealing with other parties, as the Workers&#8217; Party is widely regarded as having a righteous, &#8220;holier than thou&#8221; attitude among the left and center. Harking back to the 2016 impeachment of Ms. Rousseff and calling it a coup would be a mistake, as it implies that at least half of the population, which still supports her ousting, are undemocratic. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The party must also abandon the &#8220;stupid part&#8221; of its program, as political scientist Celso Rocha de Barros called it. Forget about proposing a new constitution, or the social control of the media, &#8220;or the silliness that moronic intellectuals placed in the program as they were contaminated by resentment from the impeachment.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2002, the Workers&#8217; Party abandoned some of its convictions to win. Now, it&#8217;s time to do that again or prepare for a Bolsonaro landslide.

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PowerOct 08, 2018

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.