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Brazil's Bolsonaro poised to win presidency in dramatic swing right

  • Published at 06:47 pm October 28th, 2018
web- A combination of file photos shows presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro (L) attending a television debate at the Rede TV studio in Osasco, Brazil August 17, 2018, and presidential candidate Fernando Haddad attending a televised debate in Sao Paulo
A combination of file photos shows presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro (L) attending a television debate at the Rede TV studio in Osasco, Brazil August 17, 2018, and presidential candidate Fernando Haddad attending a televised debate in Sao Paulo, Brazil September 26, 2018. REUTERS

The endorsements were a blow to Bolsonaro's campaign to position himself as the only anti-corruption candidate

Brazilians fed up with corruption and rising crime are expected to elect former army captain turned politician Jair Bolsonaro as their president as voting begins on Sunday in a turbulent swing to the right in the world's fourth largest democracy.

Bolsonaro's sudden rise was propelled by rejection of the leftist Workers Party (PT) that ran Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years and was ousted two years ago in the midst of the country's worst recession and biggest graft and bribery scandal.

His leftist rival Fernando Haddad, standing in for the jailed PT founder and former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been trailing Bolsonaro since the first round vote three weeks ago.

But final opinion polls on Saturday showing Haddad gaining momentum and endorsements from leading legal figures in Brazil’s unprecedented fight against political corruption have raised hopes among his supporters that he can pull off what would be a stunning upset win.

Haddad has reduced Bolsonaro's lead from 12% to 8% points in five days, according to the Ibope polling firm that gave him 46% of voter support compared with Bolsonaro's 54%. A Datafolha poll also released late Saturday showed Bolsonaro had 55% and Haddad 45%.

Haddad failed to win the crucial endorsement of center-left former candidate Ciro Gomes, a former governor of Ceara state in the northeast, which would have given Haddad a big lift in Brazil's poorest region.

But Rodrigo Janot, Brazil's former prosecutor general under whose watch unprecedented prosecutions of endemic political graft took place, tweeted that he would vote for Haddad. Popular anti-corruption judge, Joaquim Barbosa, who jailed several top PT leaders for corruption, also came out for Haddad.

The endorsements were a blow to Bolsonaro's campaign to position himself as the only anti-corruption candidate.

"I think we are at the brink of a process that could push our democracy beyond its limits," Janot told Reuters.

Many Brazilians are concerned that Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship and a defender of its use of torture on leftist opponents, will trample on human rights, curtail civil liberties and muzzle freedom of speech.

The 63-year-old seven-term congressman has vowed to crack down on crime in Brazil's cities and farm belt by granting police more autonomy to shoot at armed criminals and easing gun laws to allow Brazilians to buy weapons to fight crime, a major demand by one of his biggest backers, the powerful farm lobby.

"This is not just an election. We only have two options: to turn right or left, and we all know where the left took us for 13 years with the PT," Bolsonaro said in his final video address to supporters on Saturday evening. "We want a free Brazil."