Brazil Turns Its Back on Democracy

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Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), gestures after casting his vote, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 7, 2018. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1ABC5B5400

The far-right Jair Bolsonaro won the first round in the country’s presidential elections.

ALEX CUADROS

Jair Bolsonaro, the former army captain who dominated the first round of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, talks a lot about killing people—common criminalspolitical opponentsthe organizers of queer-art shows. Promising to cleanse the nation of corruption, he holds up the 1964–85 military dictatorship, when torture was state policy, as “a period of glory for Brazil.” Since Brazil’s return to democracy a generation ago, no major politician has spoken like this. But it turned out to be highly effective in an atmosphere of seemingly unending crisis, both economic and political—and one in which more than 60,000 people were murdered last year.

Bolsonaro still must win the runoff on October 28. But by taking 46 percent of the vote in the first round of elections on Sunday, he nearly claimed an outright majority, which would have prevented a second round altogether for the first time in 20 years. Making a mockery of the latest polls, other right-wing populists edged out established candidates in governor’s races. Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party, which previously had eight seats in Congress, will now have 52, second only to the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT). In São Paulo, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo—who recently tweeted a photo of himself standing beside the former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, a supporter—won the most votes of any congressional deputy in Brazil’s history.

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