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Jair Bolsonaro: Far-right candidate wins Brazilian presidential election's first round

Former military captain takes commanding lead ahead of runoff vote with leftist candidate

Adam Forrest
Monday 08 October 2018 16:42 BST
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Far-right Brazilian candidate and congressman Jair Bolsonaro casts vote

Far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro, an ex-army captain who has spoken fondly of Brazil’s former military dictatorship, has claimed victory in the first round of the country’s presidential election.

Mr Bolsonaro won 46 per cent of the vote, with almost all ballots counted following Sunday’s vote.

The Social Liberal Party candidate needed 50 per cent of the vote to win outright. He now enters a runoff with the second-place candidate Fernando Haddad on 28 October.

Mr Haddad, the leftist representing the Workers’ Party as a stand-in for imprisoned ex-president Luiz Inacio da Silva, got only 26 per cent of the vote.

Mr Bolsonaro enjoyed a late surge in the polls by promising to rid Brazil of corruption and bring back “traditional” values.

A first round win was considered a long shot in a country where the major parties enjoy public campaign financing and free ad time.

But the ex-military man, leader of a small right-wing party, saw his poll numbers increase by about 15 per cent after he was stabbed on 6 September.

He was unable to participate in debates during a three-week hospital stay, but instead brought messages directly to voters via Facebook and Twitter.

Mr Bolsonaro advocated loosening gun ownership laws so individuals can fight off criminals and said police should have a freer hand to use force.

“I voted against thievery and corruption," said Mariana Prado, a 54-year-old human resources expert. “I know that everyone promises to end these two things, but I feel Bolsonaro is the only one can help end my anxieties.”

The right-wing populist capitalised on Brazilians' deep anger with their political class after a massive corruption investigation revealed staggering levels of graft.

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro celebrate his election lead in front of his house in Rio de Janeiro (AP)

Beginning in 2014, prosecutors found billions of dollars in public contracts handed out in exchange for kickbacks and bribes. It led to the jailing of some of the country’s most powerful people – including the former president da Silva.

On Sunday, Brazil’s electoral court announced it would investigate images of Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters bringing guns to polling stations that went viral on social media.

One image shows a voter using his gun to press voting machine buttons to cast a ballot for Mr Bolsonaro in the city of Cachoeiro do Sul.

Despite his clear lead, Mr Bolsonaro is not guaranteed victory against Mr Haddad when the runoff vote takes place.

Many Brazilians are unhappy about the prospect of having to choose between the far-right leader and the Workers’ Party leftist.

“I think we’re going to continue with the same polarisation if either Haddad or Bolsonaro wins,” said Victor Aversa, a 27-year-old massage therapist who voted for centre-left candidate Ciro Gomes.

“We’ve been on this path of crazy bipolarity. Haddad and Bolsonaro will both lead populist governments.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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