After weeks of campaigning and sparring for support amid spiralling polarisation throughout the country, Brazil’s presidential race has been reduced from a field of 13 runners to a head-to-head race between far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro and leftist Fernando Haddad.
Bolsonaro, of the Social Liberal Party, narrowly missed out on the outright majority required for first round election success on Sunday, winning 46 percent of the vote.
Haddad, the Workers’ Party’s (PT) last-minute replacement candidate for jailed former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, trailed in second with 29 percent of support.
Haddad must now reverse current electoral momentum within just 21 days, or watch the wave that swept Bolsonaro to a first round victory carry the former army captain into office.
But analysts said they weren’t betting on him turning things around for October 28’s second-round vote.
“I think Haddad needs a bit of a miracle, it could be very, very difficult for him [to win the presidency],” Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Brazil-based Getulio Vargas Foundation higher education institute, said.
“It depends on his capacity to move to the centre and show that he is his own man, that he’s not a puppet [for Lula] … [because] the anti-PT sentiment is so strong.”
Prior to Sunday’s first-round vote, about 41 percent of Brazil’s electorate said they wouldn’t vote for Haddad under any circumstances, according to Datafolha polling institute. Bolsonaro’s rejection rate stood at 44 percent.
Haddad can only win in the second round if he converts sceptics, galvanises Sunday’s vanquished centrist candidates and their supporters and goes after his opponent on policy issues such as crime and security which, until now, he has appeared unwilling to grapple with, analysts said.
“Haddad can reach out and surpass Bolsonaro but he will have a hard time doing that, he will have to get almost the totality of the vote of Ciro Gomes and bring in the blank voters as well as those who abstained,” Thiago de Aragao, director at the Brasilia-based political consultancy Arko Advice, said.
He will also have to try to attack Bolsonaro on issues that actually affect the mindset of the voter … [and] to attack as hard and often as he can in order to break down the image of order and anti-establishment and discipline that Bolsonaro was able to create [in his campaign],” de Aragao added.
Ciro Gomes, another centre-left candidate, came in third place on Sunday with about 12.5 percent of the vote.Twenty percent of the eligible electorate – nearly 30 million people – abstained from voting.