Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro wins Brazilian presidential election

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Sophia Pinheiro Vergara gives her insight on the polemic Brazilian presidential election.

In an extremely divided election, the far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro has won the Brazilian presidential election – a potentially devastating blow to democracy. This far-right, pro-torture, pro-guns, pro-dictatorship, anti-LGBT, racist, misogynist, fascist won the election with 55.5% of the votes in the second and final round. Fernando Haddad, leftist Labour Party representative and Bolsonaro’s opponent, secured 44.5% of the votes.

This election was dramatic, politically violent and deeply divisive from start to finish. This is an upsetting turn of events for a young democracy – given that the country was under dictatorship rule from 1964 to 1985.

Bolsonaro won by 55.5% against Haddad who received 44.5% of the valid votes.

Simon Tisdall, foreign affairs commentator and former foreign editor for the Guardian says that “Bolsonaro’s candidacy benefitted from another trending electoral phenomenon: a preference among voters for a political outsider or maverick ‘disrupter’ who challenges the status quo.

Donald Trump was the quintessential ‘none-of-the-above’ candidate in the US in 2016. As with Trump, many voters did not really like Bolsonaro. But they preferred him to any ‘establishment’ figure.” 

What is most distressing about this election is the number of people who voted for Bolsonaro simply because they were opposed to the Labour Party (25%), who they blame for corruption and economic recession for the past decade.

Former presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff have been charged with corruption and money laundering, and breaking budgetary laws, respectively. Lula is currently in prison, while Rousseff was impeached in 2016.

Photo by: Sophia Pinheiro Vergara

As a Brazilian, I saw Bolsonaro’s victory coming. I am deeply upset and disappointed, but not surprised.

When I went to vote for the first round of elections in London a few weeks ago, there was a big crowd of Bolsonaro supporters outside the Brazilian Embassy. And just across from them, a crowd of anti-Bolsonaro protesters, shouting a popular Brazilian slogan “Ele não” (Not him). 

But many people were so desperate to get rid of the Labour Party that they felt they had no choice but to vote for Bolsonaro. As we know desperate people can do desperate things. This in no way excuses Bolsonaro’s victory, but it may help explain the result. For them and millions of others Bolsonaro is a saviour who represents change for the country – they hope that, among other things, he will stop corruption and lower homicide rates.

The 63-year-old former paratrooper plans to increase security and restore safety to the streets, partially by diminishing gun ownership restrictions.
For others, however, he is a threat to democracy. Indigenous people, people of colour, the LGBT community, women, environmental activists and journalists have already felt the hostility of Bolsonaro and his supporters. Many of them have been harassed, attacked or even killed.

Moa de Katendê, a well-known, respected capoeira master and Afro-Brazilian advocate from Salvador was brutally killed after saying he was opposed to Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro himself has endorsed abusive and bigoted views, saying that he would not rape a congresswoman because she was too ugly and that he would rather his son die in an accident than be gay, among other things.


Brazil’s future is uncertain with this election, but there is still hope that people will resist Bolsonaro’s extreme views.