Far-right populist closes in on presidency
Brazilians have voted in a howl of rage, said O Estado de São Paulo (Brazil) in an editorial. Our country has been gripped for years by the massive bribery scandal known as Car Wash, which has exposed nearly the entire political and business elite as irredeemably criminal. All the while, the murder rate has steadily ticked upward—it’s now six times that of the U.S., with 175 homicides a day—along with the unemployment rate. No wonder voters have turned to the brash Jair Bolsonaro, who has pledged to tear down an establishment they see as “viscerally corrupted in politics and customs.” A politically incorrect conservative, Bolsonaro took 46 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election this week, just short of the 50 percent needed for outright victory. A runoff between the former army captain and second-place Fernando Haddad of the left-leaning Workers Party, who took 29 percent, will be held in two weeks.
Bolsonaro is Donald Trump “on steroids,” said Luiza Sauma in The Guardian (U.K.). The far-right candidate proudly trumpets his “hateful, ill-informed views.” He once told a woman lawmaker, “I’m not going to rape you, because you’re very ugly,” and said he’d rather his son die in a car crash than come out as gay. Bolsonaro has complained that blacks are lazy and that cops who shoot people should get medals, not investigations. He plans to “revoke the rights of indigenous people” and open more of the Amazon rain forest to logging and development. Most frightening, though, is his nostalgia for the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, when the press was censored and thousands of dissidents tortured or killed. Bolsonaro brags that he is “pro-torture,” and took as his running mate a former general. If Bolsonaro wins the runoff, Brazil will return “to the darkness of its past.”
He could triumph if only because Haddad is deeply uninspiring, said Folha de São Paulo (Brazil). Haddad “relies exclusively on the prestige of his party’s legendary leader,” former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who couldn’t run in this election because he is in prison for corruption. A former mayor of São Paulo, Haddad has offered few ideas of his own—nor has he apologized for his party’s history of graft and embezzlement. Will voters choose him merely to avoid a Bolsonaro presidency?
Let’s hope so, said Brasil.ElPais.com. Haddad now represents not the Workers Party, “but all democrats in Brazil.” Our country may be tired of the Workers Party, but at least it adheres to democratic rules: It even handed over power after the nakedly partisan and flawed 2016 impeachment of Lula’s successor as president, Dilma Rousseff. Brazilians won’t be choosing between two candidates when they go to the polls on Oct. 28. They’ll be choosing between protecting their democracy and losing it. ■