Jair Bolsonaro: an anti-establishment figure offering brusque solutions

Jair Bolsonaro: an anti-establishment figure offering brusque solutions

Jair Bolsonaro: an anti-establishment figure offering brusque solutions

A rabble rouser who has reminisced fondly about dictatorship and promised an all-out war on drugs and crime, he just missed outright victory in Sunday's vote and will face former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers' Party in an October 28 runoff.

Haddad secured 29% of votes in the first round.

He was unable to campaign in person or participate in debates as he underwent surgeries during a three-week hospital stay - instead he used social media to communicate with the electorate. Haddad is the previously unknown, hand-picked successor anointed by Lula, the ex-two-term President who had been leading all polls until he was convicted on dubious corruption charges and quickly imprisoned so as to bar his candidacy, then silenced by Brazil's right-wing judiciary with a series of remarkable prior restraint censorship orders barring all media outlets from interviewing him.

Polls predicted Mr Bolsonaro would come out in front on Sunday, but he far outperformed expectations, blazing past competitors with more financing, institutional backing of parties and free air time on television.

"I think Bolsonaro will carry on doing what he's doing".

Bolsonaro's popularity has surged as Brazilians, exasperated with a political system that orchestrated what prosecutors call the world's largest political graft schemes, see him as the best hope to destroy corruption-riddled traditional politics.

Bolsonaro is a controversial figure, who has a developed a reputation for extremism and offensiveness.

However, he looks set to fall just short of the 50% of valid votes needed to win outright.

Now, with 99 percent of the votes counted, Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party will head to runoff elections on October 28. Others are disenchanted with Brazil's stagnant economy, in which almost 13 million people are out of work, and a deteriorating security situation which reached a peak a year ago, when a record almost 64,000 homicides were recorded.

As the Workers' Party candidate, he bears the palpable disappointment and anger of voters who blame the party for Brazil's worst-ever recession, and for a long string of graft scandals. They sent precisely the two candidates who most polarize the population to a runoff election, thus aggravating the country's problems still further.

"I voted against thievery and corruption", said Mariana Prado, a 54-year-old human resources expert. The Workers' Party took to Twitter on Monday with a rallying cry to all those who believe in democracy and vowed to unify the country.

Running his campaign as an outsider, without the support of a large party, with restricted funds and nearly no TV airtime, Bolsonaro managed to capitalise on voters' deep dissatisfaction with traditional politics, rampant corruption, and growing criminality.

Mr Bolsonaro frequently evoked the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship amid promises of a return to traditional values and safer, simpler times. "We can't let the left advance even one more step".

But his supporters, like 53-year-old lawyer Roseli Milhomem in Brasilia, said they backed the veteran lawmaker because "Brazil wants change". "We are on an upward trajectory and are confident that the Brazilian people want to distance themselves from socialism".

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