Brazil’s far-right nationalist candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the majority in Sunday’s election, but not enough to avoid a runoff on October 28th. He is a former army officer with a “law-and-order” style of governance, who wants to relax gun laws, has made crude remarks directed at blacks, gays, and women, and has denied the impacts of climate change. As a divisive figure, he could further polarize a country of big discrepancies: Brazil is large and geographically divided, inequality is among the highest in the world, and it has a diverse population.
What does this mean?
Bolsonaro has been gaining support since corruption scandals around the last three presidents and rising crime rates that have badly damaged Brazilian trust in the government. Bolsonaro rose up as a radically new type of leader and offered an alternative for voters who were fed up with corruption and rising crime. He is shaking up the political establishment and has expressed anti-globalist and nationalist views in foreign policy and the economy. His vision is comparable to that of the newly elected Mexican leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who also promised to combat corruption. Both are radical new leaders changing the course of Latin America, inwardly focused instead of being open to the world.
Voters will have to choose between two extremes in the second round. Bolsonaro still has to face the second-place candidate, leftist Workers’ Party leader Fernando Haddad in the runoff, whose predecessor is in jail for a corruption scandal. Either way, Brazil’s new president will have to operate in an extremely divided and diverse parliament (the senate has representatives from 21 different parties), meaning the country is heading for uncertainty and will be urged to cope with the polarized political landscape and domestic affairs.