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    Far right "Trump of the Tropics"candidate wins first round of Brazilian presidential election; race goes to a second round against Workers Party candidate

    Americas:  Brazil

    Primer on elections in Brazil

    (Oct. 7, 2018)

    Elections were set to be held in Brazil om Oct. 7, 2018.  At stake would be the presidency and the parliament.  

    As regards the presidency, the president is both the chief of state and head of government; the president is elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single four-year term.  The incumbent president was 
    President Michel Temer, who was in power since 2016 following the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

    The parliament in Brazil is the bicameral "Congresso Nacional" (National Congress), which  consists of the "Senado Federal" (Federal Senate) and the "Câmara dos Deputados" (Chamber of Deputies).  In the "Senado Federal" (Federal Senate), there are 81 seats; three members from each state or federal district are elected according to the principle of majority to serve eight-year terms; one-third are elected after a four-year period, two-thirds are elected after the next four-year period.  In the "Camara dos Deputados" (Chamber of Deputies), there are 513 seats; members are elected by proportional representation to serve four-year terms.

    Brazil’s presidential race was marked by violence on Sept. 7, 2018 when far-right front-runner Jair Bolsonaro, a federal deputy for Rio de Janeiro and a member of the conservative Social Liberal Party (PSL), was knifed in the stomach at one of his rallies in the city of Juiz de Fora.

    While his verified Twitter account stated that he was “doing well and recuperating”, this was contradicted by his son, Flavio Bolsonaro, who stated in a Facebook post that his father was in a “delicate situation and has trouble speaking.” Dr. Luiz Henrique Borsato, who performed operations on Bolsonaro characterized the injuries as “grave”, but said that he was in stable condition. He was stabilized in the ICU of Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo.

    According to video from police interrogations of the suspect, Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, the attack was religiously motivated as he claimed God ordered him to carry it out.

    The incident came at a volatile period of Brazil’s presidential race,  in the wake of years of anti-corruption investigations that have seen businessmen and politicians throw into jail.  Among the politicians who have been jailed was former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was arrested in April 2018, charged with money laundering and passive corruption, and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

    Jair Bolsonaro was a highly controversial in Brazilian politics, and his presidential platform was equally controversial. He marketed himself as a law-and-order candidate and called for the country’s increasingly violent police force to kill more drug dealers, gang members, and armed criminals. He has long praised Brazil’s past military dictatorship, which existed from 1964-1985, and lamented that it did not kill more people.

    On top of his radical views regarding how the state employs violence, he engaged in inflammatory rhetoric along racial and gender lines. In 2003, Bolsonaro told a congresswoman after shoving her: “I would never rape you because you do not deserve it.” He reiterated these controversial remarks in 2014 within the chamber and was subsequently slapped with charges for inciting rape.

    Despite this contentious record, Bolsonaro’s supporters viewed him as a populist promising to bring an end to a corrupt system. Polling showed him with 22 percent support in first-round votes, but easily losing in the scenario of a runoff election. According to his son, it was very unlikely his father would be able to publicly campaign before the date of the election, Oct. 7, 2018.

    The contenders for the presidency included Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labor Party, Henrique Merceilles of Brazilian Democratic Movement,  Vera Lucia of the United Socialist Workers' Party, Jair Bolsonaro of Social Liberal Party, Álvaro Dias of Podemos, Marina Silva of the Sustainability Coalition,  and José Maria Eymael of Christian Democracy, Geraldo Alckmin of Social Democratic Coalition, João Amoêdo of New Party,  Fernando Haddad of the left wing Workers Party,  among others.   

    In the lead up to the election,  Bolsonaro was boasting that he expected to win outright and would not be forced into a run-off election and polling data certainly suggested that he was on the upswing in voters' preferences.

    On election day, Oct. 7, 2018, voters in Brazil went to the polls to cast their ballots.  When the votes were counted, it was the far-right candidate, Bolsonaro, has won the first round of Brazil's presidential election with 46 percent of the vote share -- but not an outright majority.  As such he would have to contest a second round against the next top performer.  To that end, the left-wing Workers' Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, who garnered 29 percent, was positioned to challenge Bolsonaro in the run off election set for Oct. 28, 2018. 

    The choice before Brazil, thus, was between a man dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics" in the far-right and authoritarian Bolsonaro, and Haddad, the candidate of the ruling Workers Party, which was deeply mired in corruption scandals and controversies.

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