An inevitable victory for the Partido Social Liberal’s (PSL) right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro is fuelling tensions across Brazil

An inevitable victory for the Partido Social Liberal’s (PSL) right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro is fuelling tensions across Brazil

The bitter polarisation of Brazil’s politics reached new heights in the final weeks before the country’s 28 October second-round run-off presidential election which pits the Partido Social Liberal’s (PSL) right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro against Partido dos Trabalhadores’ (PT), Fernando Haddad. As the winner and runner up amongst the 13 first round candidates in the 7 October first round General Election they were forced into a second-round vote after neither received more than 50% of valid votes, or total votes minus blank or spoiled ballots. 

Bolsonaro is heavily favoured to win. According to the most-recent national poll — conducted by the IBOPE public-opinion research agency and published on 23 October — he has 57% of expected valid votes compared with 43% for Haddad. Voters in 14 of the country’s 27 states — including those in the key states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais — will also vote in run-off races for governor.

Bolsonaro’s increasingly likely victory has raised tensions between opposing groups to levels unseen for at least three decades. The political differences between their supporters run extremely deep and have divided families and friends, led to bitter public arguments, and even assaults and murders. It may be wise to avoid public places or gatherings as election results are announced before midnight on the 28 October.

These tensions have reached new heights in recent weeks after several top Bolsonaro supporters alleged that the country’s computerised voting system had been hacked or malfunctioned, thereby denying their candidate the narrow margin needed to achieve victory in the first round. Meanwhile Folha de S. Paulo, the country’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, published stories alleging illegal spending by Bolsonaro-backed businesses on a major ‘fake-news’ campaign using the WhatsApp messaging service to discredit Haddad.

Reports that the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE), the country’s top election authority was planning to make a statement on the allegations, led to rumours that Bolsonaro might be disqualified from the race. This led to Bolsonaro backers, including his son, elected Senator from Rio de Janeiro on 7 October, to threaten to take illegal and possibly violent action against the TSE and its justices if they decided to question the legitimacy of Bolsonaro’s candidacy.

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