Poll-topping Brazil far-right candidate formally enters race

Published July 23, 2018, 9:09 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Agence France-Presse

Controversial extreme-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro formalized his candidacy on Sunday for Brazil’s October presidential elections, boosted by strong social media support and polls that show him headed to a second round.

Bolsonaro, 63, rallied some 3,000 supporters in his Rio de Janeiro stronghold as he officially declared himself the candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), a party he rejoined in March after many switches during his political career.

Less than three months from a race whose outcome is uncertain, former army officer Jair Bolsonaro, who professes nostalgia for the country's military dictatorship, is firmly rejected by part of the population sickened by his racist, misogynistic and homophobic insults (AFP Photo/EVARISTO SA /MANILA BULLETIN)
Less than three months from a race whose outcome is uncertain, former army officer Jair Bolsonaro, who professes nostalgia for the country’s military dictatorship, is firmly rejected by part of the population sickened by his racist, misogynistic and homophobic insults (AFP Photo/EVARISTO SA /MANILA BULLETIN)

Less than three months from a race whose outcome is highly uncertain, the former army officer, who professes nostalgia for the country’s military dictatorship, is firmly rejected by part of the population put off by his racist, misogynistic and homophobic insults.

But others see him as a savior of a country that has been undermined by repeated corruption scandals.

“Bolsonaro is the person who can make a difference,” said 35-year-old Gilmar Jasset, a bus driver who attended the party rally Sunday dressed as his hero. “He is our hope, because he is not involved in corruption, and he is sincere.”

The candidate never seems far from controversy. Earlier in the week in Goiania city, he reiterated his promise to loosen Brazil’s tight gun ownership restrictions to allow self-defense. But he angered some Brazilians by provoking a young girl to make the shape of a gun with her fingers.

A late June poll placed Bolsonaro on top with 17 percent of intended votes in the first round, in the absence of former leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been in prison on a corruption conviction since April and whose candidacy will likely be blocked.

Ecologist Marina Silva polled second place at 13 percent, in a field where Brazil’s more than 30 parties have until mid-August to name candidates.

Pollsters do not see Bolsonaro winning a second round.

Fans know him as “the myth” — they repeatedly chanted the word Sunday as he announced his candidacy — and part of his appeal is simply that he is one of the rare well-known political figures in Brazil not to be tainted by corruption accusations.

But with his provocative style, several of his vice presidential picks have rejected him.

The latest was Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, former head of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, whose party refused to align with the PSL.

Now, Bolsonaro has hinted that he could go with Janaina Paschoal, who was a lead lawyer for the case to strip Lula’s successor Dilma Rousseff of the presidency in 2016.

Without allying with a big party, the veteran Congressman would only have eight seconds of air time for his television campaign ads, which are allotted according to a coalition’s strength in parliament.

That feeds his strategy of rejecting traditional media, which Bolsonaro accuses of spreading false information, and betting more on social media, including his Facebook account with more than five million followers.

 
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