The Brazilian Donald Trump has won the first round of the presidential election by a landslide, according to Monday’s vote count.
Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing candidate who has embraced the label of “Brazil’s Donald Trump,” has outperformed predictions made by mainstream media outlets and pollsters.
Zerohedge.com reports: Roughly 90 minutes after the last polls closed in the country’s western-most provinces, 95% of votes have been counted. The result: a landslide win in favor of Bolsonaro, who took home an impressive 46.8% of the vote, according to Brazil’s TV Globo.
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That means that in a sign of great news for Braziliang stocks as the threat of a leftist shift has been avoided, Bolsonaro outperformed even the most optimistic polls and nearly won a first-round victory outright. But since Brazil’s constitution calls for a runoff vote if no candidate wins an outright majority, it’s expected that Bolsonaro, a former military officer and federal lawmaker, will face off against Worker’s Party candidate Fernando Haddad, former mayor of Sao Paulo and Lula’s proxy, in a runoff vote set for Oct. 28.
There’s still an outside chance that center-left candidate Ciro Gomes could overtake Haddad in the final vote count, though according to the FT, that outcome is unlikely.
Flanked by an armed escort, Bolsonaro – who a month ago was attacked by a knife-wielding fanatic – cast his vote at a school in a military section of Rio de Janeiro to cheers of “mito” – “legend” – from supporters.
Investors expect stocks to rally Monday morning, given that Bolsonaro was the market’s preferred candidate (his advance in the polls mirrored a rally in the Brazilian real and Ibovespa), and he finished with what’s widely believed to be a stronger showing than markets had priced in. On Friday, Bloomberg reported that some investors had stocked up on Ibovespa puts to hedge their positions in the event of a weaker-than-expected showing by Bolsonaro, who emerged as the decisive front-runner after he was stabbed at a campaign rally last month.
Of course, the electorate’s embrace of a far-right populist candidate amid a surge of nostalgia for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985 is no accident. The social ills facing Brazil’s 210 million people – who only a few years ago were enjoying a period of relative prosperity – are myriad and diffuse: The unemployment rate has skyrocketed to 12%, a gaping budget shortfall, economic mismanagement and endemic public corruption have shaken the faith of international investors who have left the Brazilian real to plummet. Crime is rampant, with more than 63,000 murders last year, making people yearn for the social stability that was once a hallmark of life in the country. Schools, hospitals and roads are run down and underfunded. Because these and other factors (including his becoming ensnared in a corruption scandal just like his predecessor, Dilma Roussef) Brazilian President Michel Temer is universally despised, with an approval rating of 2%.
While the left-wing Workers’ Party presided over the most recent economic boom, it is also responsible for leading the country into an economic death spiral. And the massive “carwash” probe into corruption at state-run energy giant Petrobras, a scandal that led to the ouster of former President Dilma Roussef, has sown widespread resentment directed at the Brazilian left. Former President Lula da Silva, by some measures the most popular politician in the country, was preventing from running under the WP banner due to being imprisoned on corruption charges. Fernando Haddad, who trails Bolsonaro in the polls and will likely face him in the runoff vote, is running in Lula’s stead after a court ruled that Lula was ineligible due to a law that he himself signed during his presidency.
Bolsanaro is widely viewed as the pro-markets candidate and signs of his advancement in the polls have bolstered the Brazilian real as well as domestic assets. And despite his history of misogynistic and homophobic remarks, Bolsanaro maintains widespread support among Brazilian women, like one businesswoman from Sao Paolo who shared her views with the WSJ.
“The [Workers’ Party] has devastated the country,” said Solange Correia, a 58-year old businesswoman in São Paulo who enthusiastically supports Mr. Bolsonaro, one of the few top Brazilian politicians not tainted by graft scandals despite his 27 years in Congress.”
Bolsonaro has also decried Brazil’s electoral process, which relies on electronic voting machines, as deeply suspect and has said, in a comment that echoed one made by President Trump during the 2016 campaign, that he would reject any outcome where he isn’t the winner. To ensure fairness, the Brazilian army is deploying 28,000 troops to protect the polls, while the Organization of American States is sending teams of independent observers.
Though the Economist singled-out Bolsonaro in an article warning about a return to Brazil’s military dictatorship, he’s not the only candidate who has expressed sympathy and support for authoritarian leaders. The Worker’s Party has expressed support for leftist strongmen in Cuba and Venezuela, per WSJ.
Many Brazilians fear for a return to authoritarian rule from either candidate, given Mr. Bolsonaro’s sympathy for the 1964-1985 military rule and the support for strongman regimes in Venezuela and Cuba shown by Mr. Haddad’s party. Such concerns led Chief Justice Dias Toffoli to publicly call for restraint earlier in the week, on the anniversary of the country’s 1988 Constitution. “Dictatorship, never again,” he said during a televised Supreme Court session.
Some academics have claimed that Brazil’s current obsession with strongmen leaders has reached “the point of madness.”
“We’ve reached a point of madness,” said Boris Fausto, a Brazilian historian who at age 87 witnessed two long dictatorships in Brazil come and go. “Extremism has taken the upper hand, particularly the rise of an extreme right that has no commitment to democracy.”
This may be true, but then again, the anger that Brazilians are feeling appears to be justified. Brazilian election laws mandate voting for all citizens between the ages of 18 and 70. Those who don’t vote risk receiving a small fine and other administrative penalties. For Brazilians aged 16 and 17, or 70 and over, voting is optional.