A dangerous right-wing populist who preys on division and disunity looks to be headed for the presidency.
"Brazil above all else, God above all" (Brazilian version of Deutschland über alles)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — An ultra-right-wing populist is poised to assume the presidency of the world’s fourth-largest democracy. Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, won more than 46 percent of the vote during the first round of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday. He will face the runner-up, Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party in a runoff on Oct. 28. Mr. Haddad secured just 27 percent of the vote. Even if all other leftist and centrist candidates endorse him, he will struggle to stop Mr. Bolsonaro’s ascent.
Brazilians are frustrated, disillusioned and angry. Well before Mr. Bolsonaro’s rise, they were protesting against cynical politics, spiraling corruption, economic stagnation and breathtaking levels of crime. Although recent polls suggest that most Brazilians support democracy, they are more disunited than ever. More than half admit that they would “go along” with a nondemocratic government if it “solved problems.” (Mr. Bolsonaro is among them. He is also on record saying he would not accept the outcome of an election where he is not declared the winner.)
Brazil’s democracy is teetering on the edge, but its collapse is not inevitable. Its rejuvenation will demand foresight, humility, tolerance and the courage to confront what appear to be insurmountable differences. No matter who wins the second round, the coming weeks and months will see polarization deepening and the tide of hatred rising. This does not make the pursuit of a progressive middle ground and real solutions to Brazil’s problems any less important.
The election underlines the scale of Brazil’s divisive politics. The country’s political polarization is deeply personal, cutting across age, gender and class. Many friends and family members are openly wondering whether their parents, siblings or colleagues who supported Mr. Bolsonaro were always closet authoritarians. And those who did not support him are visibly nervous, fearful of the violent resentment that his campaign unleashed.