Shock upset on the cards in Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro © Alamy
Jair Bolsonaro: a fringe candidate enters the mainstream

There are only two months to go before Brazil’s elections, and another shock right-wing victory might be on the way in Latin America’s largest economy. Polls show widespread dissatisfaction among Brazil’s 147 million voters, “who have been bombarded with tales of corruption… and shaken by rising crime”, says Andres Schipani in the Financial Times. That makes the election highly unpredictable.

“At least five candidates from across the spectrum have a chance of victory” – yet “voters have few options for real change”. What the country needs is a bold president who will implement fiscal reforms to rein in its runaway budget deficit. What it will get could be far worse.

The front-runner in opinion polls is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former left-wing president. He is in jail, having been convicted of corruption, and so won’t be able to run in the election: Fernando Haddad, the former mayor of São Paulo, will effectively be his proxy.

But second place is occupied by Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate. He has emulated Donald Trump with his outrageous and sexist off-the-cuff remarks and a focus on social media, and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines with an authoritarian, tough-on-crime message. Bolsonaro would be a fringe figure if not for the traumas Brazil has endured in recent years, says The Economist. In addition to rising murder rates, Brazil suffered its worst-ever recession in 2014-2016 and is only “recovering haltingly”.

Yet he “would make a disastrous president”. He does not have sufficient respect for many of the country’s citizens to govern fairly and there is “little evidence he understands Brazil’s economic problems”. But while 60% of Brazilians say they will never vote for him, “there is no room for complacency”. Other countries with this “mix of crime, elite failure and economic agony” have elected radical presidents. It could happen again.