Brazil elects firebrand Bolsonaro in major swing to the right

01:08 - 29/10/2018

Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand former Army captain, won Brazil‌s presidential election in convincing fashion, wooing voters with promises to gut endemic political corruption and wage a brutal battle against powerful drug gangs.

Bolsonaro, who early in his legislative career declared he was “in favor” of dictatorships and demanded that Congress be disbanded, vowed after his Sunday night win to adhere to democratic principles while holding up a copy of the country‌s Constitution.

His transition team planned to meet on Monday with President Michel Temer‌s team to start work ahead of his January 1 inauguration.

Bolsonaro‌s win alarmed critics around the globe, mainly because of his vows to sweep away leftist political opponents and his history of making insulting comments about gays, women and minorities.

His victory brings Brazil‌s military back into the political limelight after it spent three decades in the barracks following the country‌s 1964-1985 dictatorship. Several retired generals will serve as ministers and close advisers. 

“You are all my witnesses that this government will defend the constitution, of liberty and of God,” Bolsonaro said in a Facebook live video in his first comments after his victory.

An outspoken admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro also pledged to realign Brazil with more advanced economies, overhauling diplomatic priorities after nearly a decade and a half of leftist rule.

Trump called Bolsonaro to wish him good luck, auguring closer political ties between the two largest economies in the Americas - both now led by conservative populists promising to overturn the political establishment.


Bolsonaro won 55.2 percent of votes in a run-off election against left-wing hopeful Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party (PT), who garnered 44.8 percent, according to electoral authority TSE.

The 63-year-old congressman‌s rise has been propelled by rejection of the leftist PT that ran Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years and was ousted two years ago in the midst of a deep recession and political graft scandal.

Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters cheered and set off fireworks outside his home in Rio de Janeiro‌s beachfront Barra de Tijuca neighborhood as his victory was announced.

Investors also cheered Bolsonaro‌s ascent, relieved that he could keep the PT out of power and hopeful that he would carry out fiscal reforms proposed by his orthodox economic guru.

 “I don‌t idolize Bolsonaro and I don‌t know if he will govern well, but we are hopeful. People want the PT out, they can‌t take any more corruption,” said Tatiana Cunha, a 39-year-old systems analyst in the midst of the noisy celebrations.

Bolsonaro has promised to cut bureaucracy for businesses. He said he was committed to fiscal discipline and called for the early elimination of the federal government‌s budget deficit.

Financial markets are expected to rally on Monday on Bolsonaro‌s victory.

The real currency has gained about 10 percent against the dollar in the last 30 days as Bolsonaro‌s prospects of winning increased. Sao Paulo‌s benchmark Bovespa stock index has risen 13.5 percent since mid September.

Investors are particularly heartened by his choice of Paulo Guedes, a Chicago University-trained economist and investment banker, as his economic guru and future economy minister.

Guedes, who wants to privatize an array of state enterprises, said the new government will try to erase Brazil‌s unsustainable budget within a year, simplify and reduce taxes, and create 10 million jobs by cutting payroll taxes. New rules will boost investment in infrastructure, he told reporters.

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