The Slatest

Far-Right, Pro-Torture, Anti-Gay Candidate Bolsonaro Easily Wins Brazil Presidential Election

Jair Bolsonaro gestures after casting his vote during general elections on October 28, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Jair Bolsonaro gestures after casting his vote on October 28, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

It wasn’t even close. Brazil became the latest country to shift to the far right Sunday when voters elected controversial candidate Jair Bolsonaro to be the country’s next president. With almost all the votes counted, Bolsonaro had 55.5 percent of the votes against 44.4 percent for his opponent, Fernando Haddad, in the runoff election. Lots of people gathered outside the congressman’s house in an upscale suburb of Rio de Janeiro to celebrate the results.

The former Army captain, who has been compared to both Donald Trump and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, has praised Brazil’s military dictatorship and spoken positively about torture. He has also made numerous homophobic, racist, and misogynist comments that led many to accuse him of inciting violence against minorities. More recently, Bolsonaro has threatened to jail or exile his political opponents.

Supporters of far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), Jair Bolsonaro, celebrate in Rio de Janeiro, after the former army captain won Brazil's presidential election on October 28, 2018.
Supporters of far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), Jair Bolsonaro, celebrate in Rio de Janeiro, after the former army captain won Brazil’s presidential election on October 28, 2018.
CARL DE SOUZA/Getty Images

Bolsonaro’s clear victory was widely interpreted as a rejection of traditional politics in a country that has been engulfed in a political and economic crisis for years. His tough-on-crime stance that vowed to give more leeway to law enforcement to kill criminals also appealed to Brazilians fed up with rising crime. He has also said he wants to make it easier for Brazilians to buy weapons to fight crime themselves. “People are very angry,” Lilia M. Schwarcz, a professor of anthropology at the University of São Paulo, told Slate’s Isaac Chotiner after the first round. “People are very mad at politicians and Bolsonaro presented himself not as a politician, even if he is, [but as] a kind of Messiah. People like these kinds of promises.”

Analysts didn’t mince words when it came to analyzing what the results meant. “The extreme right has conquered Brazil,” Celso Rocha de Barros, a Brazilian political columnist, told the election night webcast of Piauí magazine. “Brazil now has a more extremist president than any democratic country in the world … we don’t know what is going to happen.” Scott Mainwaring, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, tells the New York Times the election marks a “really radical shift” not just for the country but the region as a whole. “I can’t think of a more extremist leader in the history of democratic elections in Latin America who has been elected,” he said.

In case you need a refresher on who Bolsonaro is, John Oliver did a segment on him a few weeks ago in which he called on Brazilians to not “elect a dangerous ideologue with potentially disastrous consequences.”