Brazil voted: Jair Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad are the two candidates who will compete in the October 28 runoff. Who will be the President for the next four years? The Brazilians will have to wait a little longer to find out, but someone already believes to have the answer.
The candidate of the PSL Bolsonaro has collected almost 50 million votes, reaching 46%, against the 30 million votes of Fernando Haddad (PL) standing at 29.3%. In third place, Ciro Gomes (PDT), with just over 13 million preferences (12.5%). The results, therefore, have given reason to the polls that preceded yesterday’s election day, surveys that already reflected the binomial, even if underestimating the enormous gap. So enormous that Jair himself, for a few moments, seemed pretty sure of making it in the first round. The results showed unexpectedly large Congressional victories by the Bolsonaro delegates, including former military police chief Olimpio Gomes, as well as his campaign director in São Paulo elected to the Senate.
Bolsonaro supporters gathered last night outside his beach house, in the west of Rio de Janeiro, to celebrate the result with fireworks and steaming barbecues. Many of them wore T-shirts with the image of Bolsonaro and the slogan ‘É melhor Jair se acostumando!‘, that we can translate as ‘It’s better to get used to Jair!‘
The Social Liberal Party represented by Jair, once insignificant, is destined, it seems, to become the greatest strength of the Congress following what analysts have described as a «seismic change in Brazilian politics». A change that will inevitably produce conspicuous effects in the largest economy in Latin America. If you are wondering if this will be the future way and, above all, how they got there, the answer is around the corner.
After confirming the outcome, Bolsonaro said he wanted to reunite people, working to put together the «fragments» arising from the previous left government. Brazil cannot «take another step on the left» because, according to him, it would already be «on the verge of chaos». The PSL candidate continues to play on what remains the main topic of his electoral campaign which, so far, is showing decidedly positive effects. He has learned how to ride a wave of growing anger against the Workers’ Party of Lula -and of Fernando Haddad-, a party that the same supporters have long blamed for the prolonged recession, the increase in violent crime and, last but not least, a widespread corruption.
Haddad also referred to the concept of unity: «We want to unite the people who pay attention to those who are poorer in this very iniquitous country» but his arguments are likely to remain in the shadows. Haddad invited the Brazilians to join him, warning that the 1988 Constitution that supported the young democracy of Brazil is threatened. He also said that he had already spoken with three other candidates to join forces against the right wing. «The risk in these elections remains very high. We want to unite all the democrats in Brazil».
But what’s up now? From the percentages obtained, is possible an easy rise to the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro or things are not quite as they appear?
The roads ahead, according to the most, seem to be essentially two: o Haddad will change something -or someone- in his strategy to recover consents and essentially play on equal terms, or Bolsonaro will defeat his opponent -with more or less difficulty-.
Brian Winter, editor of ‘Americas Quarterly‘, said that the obvious huge support for Bolsonaro in several areas of the country was already a sign of this first round. «This idea that Bolsonaro can save the country and make it safe for people walking in the streets at night … is an idea that seems to have bought most Brazilians». Its 7 million followers on Facebook are a confirmation.
And Fernando? Winter is certain: Haddad, to remedy this shortcoming, will run into many obstacles. The fact is that now, the biggest responsibility is the one that burdens on the candidate of PT. Who hopes, in fact, that Haddad can still win, he also believes that, in order to do so, he must change something. The preselected potential finance minister of Jair also appears to have played a key role in popular belief: Paulo Guedes. According to experts, for example, if Haddad does not choose a minister equally capable to attract markets, he will not be able to compete with the choice of the opposite.
He should ensure that he can prevent Brazil from approaching the kind of authoritarian government that Bolsonaro has often promised. And to ensure an alternative like this, it takes much more than some attack or a word shouted loudly.
One of the options could be a coalition. Heloisa Starling, a Brazilian historian, also spoke about it, emphasizing the need for Haddad to put together «a great democratic coalition» to avoid «tyranny». «It cannot just be a leftist coalition -it must include all those who are ready to defend democracy, whoever they are». And yesterday evening there were signals from the counterpart of Bolsonaro: «I have always been on the side of freedom and democracy. I’m not going to give up my values». Fernando wrote on Twitter saying he had already spoken with three of the defeated candidates and opened the dialogue.
And speaking of coalition, we immediately think about Ciro Gomes, who came third with 12.5% of the votes and, therefore, with the most interesting baggage of votes to take inside. Gomes, who has not yet expressed himself on this, has stated that he does not support Bolsonaro: «Not him, certainly!» He also added that he was distressed by the direction his country is taking. «One thing I can tell you now [is that I hope]to continue doing what I have done all my life: fighting for democracy against fascism», he told. That Gomes can actually be considered inside, in short, seems to be something probable.
But as Winter says, it remains difficult to believe that such an alliance would be sufficient in itself; in fact, this union would represent a union in the only and usual direction in which the left goes and which does not aim to ensure what the population probably needs most. In other words, in the weaknesses of the leftist parties, there is a risk of finding the message of Bolsonaro even more forceful. A message that, in its own way and however debatable, is a message that acts as a driving force, as an attraction.
Haddad «will appeal for democracy», Winter predicts. But the point is this: we are sure that democracy has not taken an almost negative meaning in a country like Brazil? And if this is the unlikely issue? If this is the misunderstanding at the origin of all the problems of consent of the PT?
Democracy has become a «synonym of weakness, chaos and clemency with criminals, and I think that calls for democracy will end up being unheard», says Winter. The opponents of Bolsonaro, so far, have founded their attacks on his figure, his being authoritarian, sexist and so on, without focusing on how to break down that strong strategy and impact. «Most of the people who support Bolsonaro know exactly what it is at this point, just as most of Trump’s voters were well aware of the kind of man they were electing». Violence, lack of security, corruption: all this has led the Brazilians to harbor resentment towards the old political class, and consequently, to look elsewhere for the alternative. It is easy to see the parallel with what happened in the United States, in Italy and in many other countries.
Bolsonaro has been able to represent -so far- the alternative that Brazilians need. And if its promises of «prosperity, freedom and family» have caught sight of the direction of Haddad and of the left -«the way of Venezuela», as the rival says- is failing and risks another fall in the second turn.
We must therefore conclude that the Bolsonaro road to the presidency is on the plain? Maybe not, but to a single and very clear condition.
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