Brazil is choosing a new president. Here’s what you need to know

Brazil holds presidential and legislative elections on Sunday. A far-right politician promising a hard line on crime and corruption, Jair Bolsonaro, is the frontrunner for the top job.

Here’s what you need to know:

How important are the elections? 

Brazil is one of the most important emerging economies out there, one of the BRICS and Latin America’s biggest democracy.

Whoever ends up as president will be at the helm of the world’s 8th-biggest economy, an oil producer and major energy consumer whose chief trading partner is China.

Yet it’s only three decades since Brazil shucked off a military dictatorship. And it has just emerged from its worst-ever recession, which wiped away much of a preceding decade of prosperity.

Who is Bolsonaro? 

Out of a field of 13 presidential candidates, Bolsonaro is by far the most controversial and polarising.

Once an army captain, he has been a deputy in Brazil’s congress since 1991, during which he became known for offensive remarks against women, gays and Brazil’s mostly black poor.

But he also has a healthy polling lead over rivals — attributed to his tough-guy promises to crack down on crime and graft, and his canny use of Facebook to reach out to voters.

READ MORE: Brazil flirts with a neo-fascist

Massive protests by Brazilian women have been held against Bolsonaro.

Although a Catholic, he has the backing of an influential evangelical bloc in congress that would help him govern if he wins the presidency.


A stabbing attack by a lone knifeman last month as he campaigned only increased sympathy for him — and for his pledge to be ruthless with street criminals.

Is he a shoo-in?

Not yet. Sunday is the first round of the presidential elections. If no candidate gets more than 50%, then a second, knockout round will be held on October 28 between the two with the highest scores.

Bolsonaro boasts he will win outright on Sunday and Brazilians can go to the beach instead on October 28. But analysts say that while a first-round victory can’t be excluded, the polling numbers available make it unlikely.

In a second round, the outcome would be uncertain. Surveys suggest Bolsonaro would be neck-and-neck with his nearest rival, leftist candidate Fernando Haddad, the Workers’ Party’s choice to replace popular ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is in jail for bribery.

READ MORE: The man who could save Brazil is in jail

Against the candidate currently trailing in third place, center-left politician Ciro Gomes, Bolsonaro would likely lose, recent polls show.

What changes does he promise? 

If he does enter Planalto, Brazil’s equivalent of the White House, Bolsonaro has promised big changes.

He wants looser gun laws for “good” civilians to help counter rife street assaults and murders, and for the army to go after organised crime.

Political corruption will be quashed and the government streamlined, he has said. Brazil would sell off state enterprises to bring down spiralling public debt.

In foreign relations, Brasilia would “cease coddling murderous dictatorships,” his manifesto says.

That looks like a reference particularly to neighbouring Venezuela, whose implosion under the rule of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing over the border into Brazil.

Instead, it would turn more towards countries such as the United States, Israel and Italy.

“We’ve got to give socialism, communism, a kick up the ass,” he told a Brazilian TV station, Record, late Thursday.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Marc Burleigh
Marc Burleigh
AFP journalist - Based in Paris. Previously: Central America, Tehran, São Paulo, London, Sydney.
Advertising

‘Tenderpreneurs’ block the delivery of protective equipment to schools

Protests by local suppliers have delayed PPE delivery, which according to the DBE, is one of the reasons the reopening of schools has been pushed back until June 8

‘Soon he’ll be seen as threatening, not cute’: What it’s...

There is no separating George Floyd’s killing from the struggles black people have faced ever since the first slave ships landed on these shores

How schools could work during Covid

Ahead of their opening, the basic education department has given schools three models to consider to ensure physical distancing
Advertising

Press Releases

Empowering his people to unleash their potential

'Being registered as an AGA(SA) means you are capable of engineering an idea and turning it into money,' says Raymond Mayekisa

What is an AGA(SA) and AT(SA) and why do they matter?

If your company has these qualified professionals it will help improve efficiencies and accelerate progress by assisting your organisation to perform better

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday