By Agence France-Presse
Barring any last-minute upset, Brazil appears poised to elect Jair Bolsonaro, a populist far-right veteran politician, as its next president in a week’s time.
His lead seems insurmountable over his leftist rival Fernando Haddad ahead of the October 28 run-off, with most voters swayed by his anti-corruption promises — while a minority fears his authoritarian bent and intolerant views.
In the first round two weeks ago, Bolsonaro handily beat a dozen other candidates, garnering 46 percent of the vote. Polls since then suggest his support has climbed to 59 percent, against 41 percent for Haddad.
Much of his appeal lies in his image as a “clean” political outsider who wants to crack down on rampant crime and stamp out graft in Latin America’s biggest, most populous nation.
His virulent attacks on Haddad’s Workers Party — widely seen as a corrupt outfit under now-jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the cause of Brazil’s worst-ever recession — have worked to his advantage. So has the endorsement of many of Brazil’s increasingly influential evangelical churches.
But opposition to Bolsonaro, while smaller, is fierce and won’t go away.
His record of contentious comments — praising Brazil’s brutal 1964-1985 military dictatorship during which he served as an army captain, calling a female lawmaker “not worth raping,” justifying torture, and denigrating gay and black people — have repelled a significant portion of the population.
Demonstrations in Brazil over the weekend both for and against Bolsonaro highlighted the deep polarization.
Bolsonaro’s profile got a boost when he was stabbed last month by a lone assailant while campaigning for the first round.
During weeks of convalescence he intensified his already deft use of social media to speak directly to his millions of followers, largely ducking interviews with journalists.
That, and his controversial, tough-guy way of talking have added to comparisons many have made with US President Donald Trump. Others see shades of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Italian media have called Bolsonaro “Brazil’s Salvini,” after Italy’s far-right interior minister.