Rio de Janeiro, Brazil : Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain accused of sexism and racism on Sunday took a comfortable victory in Brazil’s presidential election, sparking concern over the rights of minorities and the stability of the country’s democracy.
Jair Bolsonaro, 63, received 55.2 per cent of the vote against 44.8 per cent for his leftist challenger Fernando Haddad, with 99.6 per cent of the ballots counted.
Bolsonaro pledged to “change the destiny of the country” which would no longer “continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and left-wing extremism.”
The president-elect, who has made statements seen as racist and homophobic, also said he would preside over a “Brazil of different opinions, colours and orientations.”
Haddad pledged to continue defending the country’s democracy and “freedoms” at a time when “institutions are constantly put on trial.”
Dubbed “Brazil’s Donald Trump,” Bolsonaro could become the country’s most right-wing president ever, analysts said.
Brazil has not previously seen a powerful right-wing movement since the end of military rule in 1985.
The leftist Workers’ Party (PT) had chosen former Sao Paulo mayor Haddad, 55, to replace ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had appeared practically certain to win the election until he was jailed on corruption charges in April and excluded from the race.
The less charismatic Haddad tried to capitalize on the achievements of Lula, who is credited with lifting millions of people out of poverty during his 2003-10 presidency, while trying to distance himself from the corruption that tarnished Lula’s party.
Bolsonaro, however, convinced voters by presenting himself as a political outsider capable of ridding Brazil of crime and corruption, despite having been a congressman since 1991.
He was seen as a candidate free of the graft that had engulfed much of the political class in an investigation known as Lava Jato, which centred on bribes that entrepreneurs paid to politicians in exchange for contracts with the state oil giant Petrobras.
Bolsonaro’s promises to relax gun controls increased his popularity in a country where more than 63,000 people suffered a violent death in 2017, up 2.9 per cent from the previous year, according to the non-governmental organization Public Security Forum.
The far-right candidate was also bolstered by Brazil’s worst recession ever, which saw the economy shrink by 7 per cent over 2015-16.
Bolsonaro has praised the 1964-85 military dictatorship and pledged to place generals in ministries. He has also adopted an ultra-liberal economic agenda and spoken out against abortion.
“I voted for Haddad,” a voter who identified herself as Estela said at a polling station in Niteroi in Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. “The other candidate scares me … very bad things could happen to minorities,” she added.
Kelly Barreto, 33, voted for Bolsonaro. “He is the only candidate who is prepared to change the country, he is not corrupt,” she said in front of Bolsonaro’s house in Rio de Janeiro, where hundreds of supporters had gathered to celebrate his expected victory.
Bolsonaro said Trump had called to congratulate him and that it had been “a fairly friendly contact.”
Outgoing President Michel Temer, who did not seek a new term, said Bolsonaro had shown “enthusiasm” when making statements “seeking the unity, pacification and harmony of the country.”
Colombia, Chile and Argentina congratulated Bolsonaro and said they looked forward to working with him. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said the peaceful election “reflects the strength of the country.”
Bolsonaro was stabbed at an electoral rally on September 6, leaving him able to continue campaigning only on social media.
The electoral campaign was characterized by a proliferation of fake news spread over WhatsApp, most of which were attributed to Bolsonaro supporters.
Bolsonaro’s praise of the dictatorship, military background and contacts have sparked concern that he could establish a military-backed, authoritarian regime.
More than 147 million people were eligible to vote, which is compulsory in Brazil.
Bolsonaro will be sworn in on January 1.
Jair Bolsonaro’s climb to power has been marked by divisive rhetoric and offensive speech that has thrilled followers and appalled critics in equal measure.
The far-right former army captain’s rise has left some baffled. Mr. Bolsonaro served seven consecutive terms in Congress, with little to show for his time there — very few of his bills were approved.
But many Brazilians, angered by their country’s economic crisis, soaring violence and corruption scandals interpreted his long list of caustic remarks as blunt but bracingly honest talk from a man willing to say — and do — whatever was necessary to bring about the change they craved.
On Women, Race and Sexual Orientation
Mr. Bolsonaro has described having a female child as a “weakness,” and has said he would not treat or pay women the same as men in the workplace.
“Because women get more labor rights than men, meaning they get maternity leave, the employer prefers to hire men … I would not employ [women equally]. But there are a lot of competent women out there.”
In 2014, he told a fellow lawmaker:
“I would not r**e you because you are not worthy of it.”
In 2013, he said that he would “rather have a son who is an addict than a son who is gay,” and that he was “proud to be homophobic.”
In June 2011, he said he would “rather his son die in a car accident than be gay,” adding:
“If a gay couple came to live in my building, my property will lose value. If they walk around holding hands, kissing, it will lose value! No one says that out of fear of being pinned as homophobe.”
In April 2017, Mr. Bolsonaro spoke about visiting traditional Afro-Brazilian communities. He described the weight of the residents using the word “arrobas,” an outdated unit used to weigh cattle and agricultural products.
“The lightest Afro-descendant there weighed seven ‘arrobas’. They don’t do anything. They are not even good for procreation.”
Mr. Bolsonaro advocates it:
“I am in favor of torture — you know that. And the people are in favor of it, too.
In April 2016, when President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment was put to a vote in Congress, Mr. Bolsonaro dedicated his vote to a colonel who ran a torture center during the country’s military dictatorship in which Ms. Rousseff was tortured in her youth:
“In memory of Col. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the terror of Dilma Rousseff … I vote YES.”
After criticizing Brazil’s government during a 1999 interview, Mr. Bolsonaro was asked whether he would shut down Congress if he were president. He said:
“There is no doubt. I would perform a coup on the same day. [Congress] doesn’t work. And I am sure that at least 90 percent of the population would celebrate and applaud because it doesn’t work. The Congress today is useless … lets do the coup already. Let’s go straight to the dictatorship.”
In the same interview he also said:
“Elections won’t change anything in this country. Unfortunately, it will only change on the day that we break out in civil war here and do the job that the military regime didn’t do: killing 30,000. If some innocent people die, that’s fine. In every war, innocent people die. I will even be happy if I die as long as 30,000 others go with me.”
At a rally in São Paulo on Oct. 21, Mr. Bolsonaro vowed to imprison or exile his political opponents once in office:
“This time, the cleanup will be even greater. This group, if they want to stay, they will have to abide by our laws. Either they stay out or they will go to jail.”
Mr. Bolsonaro has said he would curtail efforts to protect the environment and indigenous land:
“We are going to fuse together the Ministry of Agriculture with the Ministry of the Environment … We need to put a stop to the demarcation of indigenous land … indigenous people want to rent out the land, they want to be able to do business, they want electricity, a dentist to remove the stumps of teeth from their mouths … indigenous people are human beings like us. They don’t want to be used for political purposes.”
Mr. Bolsonaro has also said that there were far too many indigenous reservations in the Amazon:
“Our Amazon is like a child with chickenpox, every dot you see is an indigenous reservation … and the Brazilian people applaud [demarcation of indigenous land]. Look at these people, no political strategy!”