Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro celebrate in Brasilia on Sunday night [Adriano Machado/Reuters]
Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro – Brazil’s turbulent 2018 presidential election will go to a second round runoff between far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad of the left-leaning Workers’ Party in a contest that came down to the wire.
Bolsonaro nearly took Sunday’s election in the first round as he and his team insisted he would but in the end just missed the required 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff. The second round is scheduled for October 28 with much more drama promised in the meantime.
With 95 percent of votes counted, Bolsonaro had 47 percent to Haddad’s 28 percent.
In Barra da Tijuca, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most affluent neighbourhoods, hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters of all ages gathered outside of the former army captain’s beachfront gated housing complex.
Many sported Brazilian flags and chants of “Him yes” and “Long live the military” competed against the sound of fireworks launched metres from an inflatable Lula balloon portraying the former president in prison rags.
Lucas Oliveira, 20, said Bolsonaro had “united everyone who was divided”.
“His win means bringing people together. He brought back my family’s belief in politics, which they had totally lost,” Oliveira, a Rio de Janeiro-based military police officer, said.
Bolsonaro’s disparaging comments about gays, women and minorities disgust many voters but his proud political incorrectness and tough-on-crime posture has appealed to many others.
In 2017, there were nearly 64,000 murders in Brazil and if elected Bolsonaro pledged to give Brazil’s already deadly police more rights to kill suspected criminals.
He is often described as a combination of USs President Donald Trump – of whom Bolsonaro has expressed his admiration – and Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte whose bloody war against drug dealers and addicts has left thousands dead.
Other voters, such as Carina Correira Pinto, said they backed Bolsonaro on Sunday because of his clean record on corruption, another huge concern for Brazilian voters in this election as in recent years the country has been rocked by successive scandals including the far reaching “car wash” probe that toppled dozens of political and business elites.
“The politicians only rob, and he won’t do that,” 39-year-old Pinto, a dentist, said.