A deeply divided Brazil elects a new president this Sunday. Economic crises and corruption scandals have made radical discourse socially acceptable; hate campaigns abound in social networks.
Brazil faces historic swing to the right. Jair Messias Bolsonaro, 63, an ultra-conservative ex-military man, enters Sunday's first round of presidential elections as the favorite. Going into the runoff election on 28. October, he is expected to be succeeded by Fernando Haddad (55) of the leftist Workers' Party (PT) (Partido dos Trabalhadores), which already ruled from 2003 to 2016. The turbulent election campaign for the 147 million eligible voters was dominated by aggressively conducted campaigns on social networks.
Bolsonaro is the current shooting star of Brazilian politics. The backbencher, who has been in parliament for nearly three decades, had attracted attention until two years ago only for his verbal attacks and smear campaigns against minorities and veneration for the military dictatorship (1964-1985).
His program is the political destruction of the left
But after the PT Workers' Party lost power in 2016 amid a deep economic crisis and exposed corruption scandals, the former paratrooper put himself at the head of the anti-PT movement. His program is the political destruction of the Left. He wants to militarize Brazil's society in the face of rampant violence, thereby restoring law and order.
Police officers to get bounties for shooting criminals, private citizens to be allowed to own guns for self-protection. Military to take charge of public schools as well as strategic ministerial posts. Bolsonaro also speaks out against same-sex marriage and abortion. Although he himself has been married three times, he speaks of traditional family values. Catholic also scores strong points with this among conservative evangelical voters.
In early September, Bolsonaro was stabbed by a knife-wielding assassin during an election campaign rally. Since then, he has not been able to make any public appearances, but the attack has obviously benefited his popularity. For example, it recently gained from around 20 to more than 30 percent in polls. Behind him is Fernando Haddad, former education minister and mayor of Sao Paulo.
Leftist Labor Party candidate promises return to social policies
Originally slated for the vice presidential post under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), Haddad took over the candidacy of the judicially suspended Lula in mid-September. In January, a court sentenced Lula to more than twelve years in prison for corruption and money laundering, and the former popular hero has been in prison since April. Nevertheless, he held on to his candidacy again until early September.
Polls meanwhile predicted a landslide victory for Lula. Because during his administration, millions of Brazilians had risen socially. On 1. In September, the judiciary finally banned Lula's candidacy – for him and his Workers' Party "a plot".
Haddad promises a return to the social policies of Lula. He also wants to invest in expanding the public education system. Banks and top earners are to be made to pay more for it. Business leaders and the financial markets are therefore leaning more toward Bolsonaro, who is backing business-friendly financial guru Paulo Guedes. At the beginning of the week, the financial markets responded to Bolsonaro's high poll with euphoric price jumps.
Catholic Church in Brazil makes no election recommendation
While evangelical churches are clearly positioning themselves in favor of Bolsonaro, Brazil's Catholic Church is not recommending a vote. However, it urged voters to scrutinize candidates for their care for the community and commitment to social causes. In polls, 21 percent of Catholic voters said they would vote left; among evangelicals, the figure was only 6 percent.
Although Brazil experienced a historically unprecedented economic downturn between 2015 and 2017, with millions of citizens unemployed and public coffers on the verge of collapse, the topic of the economy comes up surprisingly little in the election campaign. Rather, voters are concerned about rampant corruption and violence. In social networks, left-wing and right-wing groups blame each other for the misery.
The sometimes absurd debates do not even stop at German history. This is how right-wing groups claim that Hitler's NSDAP was actually a left-wing party. Brazil's left also plans to turn the country into a Cuban-style communist dictatorship. Most recently, Bolsonaro made it clear he would not accept electoral defeat. If the leftist PT wins the election, the military will not stand idly by, he predicted.
By Thomas Milz