Last-ditch bid to woo undecided ahead of Brazil presidential poll

Published October 7, 2018, 7:46 AM

by Francine Ciasico

By Agence France-Presse

Candidates vying to be Brazil’s next president made last-ditch bids Saturday to woo undecided voters on the eve of a first-round election that polarizing far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro is favored to win.

A worker at an electoral court storage facility in Rio de Janeiro carries electronic ballots for distribution during preparations on the eve of Brazil's general election (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
A worker at an electoral court storage facility in Rio de Janeiro carries electronic ballots for distribution during preparations on the eve of Brazil’s general election (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Even though campaigning in public ended Thursday, many of the 13 candidates continued to make their case via social networks in Latin America’s largest democracy.

Bolsonaro has been particularly adept at using the internet. Since being stabbed by a lone knifeman while campaigning a month ag,o he has been convalescing in hospital and at home, but remained very active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

On Saturday, he used Instagram to say “it is necessary to use force to combat crime so that criminals understand that their action will not go unpunished.”

The 63-year-old ultraconservative, an ex-paratrooper advocating tough law-and-order measures and looser gun laws, surged in the polls in recent days. He has 35 percent of voter support according to the Datafolha firm.

That puts him well ahead of his nearest rival, Fernando Haddad, who became the leftist Workers Party replacement candidate after its iconic figure, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was declared ineligible because he is in prison for corruption.

Haddad is credited with 22 percent support.

If those scores are borne out in Sunday’s general election, Bolsonaro and Haddad will go on to a run-off ballot on October 28. That round is seen as too close to reliably call.

But analysts say Bolsonaro’s rise has been so swift there is an outside possibility he could even carry off the presidency on Sunday without going to a second round.

A political analysis consultancy, Eurasia Group, said it viewed a first-round outright victory as “unlikely,” estimated its chance at 20 percent.

Strongly for and against

Bolsonaro is seen as a “clean” candidate, unmarred by corruption scandals that have sullied so many other politicians despite him spending the past 27 years in congress. Though a Catholic, he has close ties to evangelical groups that form a powerful political lobby.

Yet he is reviled by around 40 percent of voters, according to surveys. Many object to his comments degrading women, making light of rape, expressing hostility to homosexuals and criticizing the poor.

His nostalgia for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship has also chilled voters.

But he has solid support from better-educated Brazilians fed up with crime and corruption, and by business leaders and investors swayed by his promises to reduce Brazil spiralling debt through privatizations in the world’s eight-biggest economy.

“Bolsonaro has better scores from voters with high revenues and good levels of education than from the poor. He also has wooed more men than women,” noted political analyst Jairo Nicolau.

Around 50 percent of Brazilian women say they would never vote for Bolsonaro, surveys show.