By Alistair Farrow
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Far right candidate comes out on top in first round of Brazilian election

This article is over 5 years, 7 months old
Issue 2625
A protest against far right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro
A protest against far right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro (Pic: Flickr/Mark Hillary)

The right are on the rise in Brazil.

In Sunday’s general election the ultra-right wing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro received 46 percent of the vote. His nearest rival was Workers Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad with 29 percent.

Bolsonaro’s result, and the rapid growth of his Social Liberal Party (PSL), should serve as a dire warning.

He has portrayed himself as an anti-establishment character in the likeness of Donald Trump, promising to “make Brazil great again”.

On top of this, strong votes for PSL in Congressional elections are likely to give it 51 seats in the lower house. That puts it second only to PT, which has enough votes to give it 57 seats.

The election has seen the destruction of some of the established bourgeois political parties. The Brazilian Social Democracy Party’s share of the vote fell from 48 percent in 2014 to 5 percent at Sunday’s election.

But it would be a mistake to buy into Bolsonaro’s anti-establishment hype, or to frame the election as a contest between right wing and left wing populism.

He is a career politician with deep establishment links. His support comes from the richer electoral districts such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and from the Christian right.

And his vice presidential running mate is general Antonio Hamilton Mourao, who has previously endorsed military intervention if the government can’t “heal the existing politics”.

Bolsonaro is a ruling class fighter. He has defended the murderous military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985.

He has threatened to shoot PT supporters. He backs low pay for women. He views homosexuality as an illness. He defends the use of torture.

And he has vowed to attack working class people—raising taxes for them and cutting tax for the rich, as well as freezing social spending and privatising swathes of public assets.


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A more clear anti-establishment element of the election was the huge level of abstention.

Some 40 million people either stayed away of spoiled their ballots—even thoughvoting is compulsory. Almost 150 million people are eligible to vote in Brazil.

The global financial crisis hit Brazil hard, choking off demand for the commodity exports it relied on. Ordinary people were made to pay the price by the PT government.

The PT presided over a vast corrupt network centred on the state-run energy firm Petrobras.

Some £3 billion was funnelled from the company in bribes. The huge corruption was offset by some worker-friendly policies.

Corruption, and increasingly neoliberal economics from the PT have undermined its support base, which Bolsonaro has attempted to exploit.

Tragically, the socialist left failed to make serious gains on Sunday. In the presidential election the Socialism and Liberty Party received just 0.6 percent—or 617,000 votes.

A second round election will take place on 28 October.

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