Far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro wins Brazil presidential election

Jair Bolsonaro has been declared the winner of Brazil’s presidential election which was deemed as one of the most polarising and violent political campaigns in the country’s history

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Jair Bolsonaro, a brash far-right congressman who has waxed nostalgic for Brazil's old military dictatorship, won the presidency of Latin America's largest nation on Sunday, October 28, as voters looked past warnings that he would erode democracy and embraced a chance for radical change after years of turmoil.

The former army captain, who cast himself as a political outsider despite a 27-year career in Congress, became the latest world leader to rise to power by mixing tough, often violent talk with hard-right positions. His victory reflected widespread anger at the political class after years of corruption, an economy that has struggled to recover after a punishing recession and a surge in violence.

"I feel in my heart that things will change," Sandra Coccato, a 68-year-old small business owner, said after she voted for Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo. "Lots of bad people are leaving, and lots of new, good people are entering. There's a light at the end of the tunnel." In Rio de Janeiro, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters gathered on iconic Copacabana Beach, where fireworks went off.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, car horns could be heard honking and crowds celebrated as the results came in. There were also reports of clashes between his backers and opponents in Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro, who ran on promises to clean up Brazil and bring back "traditional values," said he would respect the constitution and personal liberty.

"That is a promise, not of a party, not the vain word of a man. It's a promise to God," he said, standing next to his wife and many cheering supporters.

Later, he said in a Facebook Live transmission that he had received a call from some world leaders, including US President Donald Trump who wished him good luck.

Addressing supporters in Sao Paulo, his rival, Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party, did not concede or even mention Bolsonaro by name. Instead, his speech was a promise to resist.

"We have the responsibility to mount an opposition, putting national interests, the interests of the entire Brazilian people, above everything," Haddad said. "Brazil has never needed the exercise of citizenship more than right now." He later added: "Don't be afraid. We are here. We are together!" Brazil's top electoral court said Bolsonaro won with just over 55% of the vote, compared with just under 45% for Haddad.

Bolsonaro went into Sunday the clear front-runner after getting 46% of the vote to Haddad's 29% in the first round of voting on Oct. 7, when 13 contenders were on the ballot. Opinion polls in recent weeks had him leading by as much as 18 percentage points, but the race tightened in the last few days. Several Brazilian heavyweights came out against him, arguing that he was a direct risk to the world's fourth-largest democracy.

His rise was powered by disgust with the political system. In particular, many Brazilians were furious with the Workers' Party for its role in the mammoth graft scheme uncovered by the "Operation Car Wash" investigation. Haddad struggled to build momentum with his promises of a return to the boom times by investing in health and education and reducing poverty.

Along the way, Bolsonaro's candidacy also raised serious concerns that he would roll back civil rights and weaken institutions in what remains a young democracy. He frequently disparaged women, gays and blacks, and said he would name military men to his Cabinet.

Minutes after he was elected, several international human rights groups put out statements demanding that Bolsonaro respect Brazil's democracy.

In a highly unusual moment earlier Sunday, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Jose Dias Toffoli, read out part of the Constitution to reporters after he voted.

"The future president must respect institutions, must respect democracy, the rule of law, the judiciary branch, the national Congress and the legislative branch," Toffoli said in remarks many took to be a rebuke of Bolsonaro and his more extreme positions.

As late as Sunday morning, Haddad was still holding out hope that he could win after receiving several key endorsements late on Saturday.

Among them was a popular former Supreme Court justice, Joaquim Barbosa, who tweeted support for Haddad, saying Bolsonaro's candidacy scared him. Likewise, former Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, one of the biggest crusaders against corruption in the Workers' Party in recent years, also endorsed Haddad.

One of the most important endorsements, particularly for young people, came from YouTube personality Felipe Neto, whose channel has nearly 27 million followers.

Neto said he was troubled by Bolsonaro's comments a week ago that "red" leftists would be run out of Brazil.

"In 16 years of the (Workers' Party), I have been robbed, but never threatened," Neto said on Twitter.

The past few years in Brazil have been exceptionally turbulent. In 2016, then-President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party was impeached and removed from office on charges that many on the left felt were politically motivated. The economy suffered a two-year recession and is only beginning to emerge, with growth stagnant and unemployment high.

According to official results, with 97% of the votes counted, Bolsonaro has clinched the presidential vote, soundly defeating Workers Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad, who has garnered 44.58% of the votes, Efe reported on Sunday.

Haddad began his campaign only on September 11, when Brazil's judiciary ruled that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with the PT but serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption, was ineligible to contest the election.

In the first electoral round, Bolsonaro garnered 46% of the votes, with Haddad coming in second in a field of 13 candidates with 29%.

On September 6, during the first round campaign, Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen at a political rally and remained hospitalised for 23 days, undergoing two operations.

Since that time, he has limited his election activity to the social networks and did not even participate in any of the four television debates with Haddad that had been anticipated during the run-off campaign.

Haddad criticised that position, in particular because doctors had said that Bolsonaro could participate in the debates.

Bolsonaro, 63, has been a lawmaker for almost three decades and was elected president as the representative of the Liberal Social Party (PSL), a small party until now, but which in the October 7 legislative election garnered 52 of the lower house's 513 seats.

The PSL will only be exceeded in the new legislature by the PT, which will hold 56 seats in a completely fragmented parliamentary chamber in which 30 parties have seats, most of them having expressed support for Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro's running mate -- and now vice president-elect -- is reserve army Gen. Hamilton Mourao, who has extolled Brazil's military dictatorship in his campaign speeches.

The new president-elect, in his own campaign speeches, has promised to take a hard line against crime and to allow civilians to buy firearms, along with announcing a neoliberal line on the economy including privatisations of state-run firms and a significant reduction of the size of the state.

Meanwhile, former Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria, a businessman with little political experience, on Sunday won the gubernatorial runoff vote in the same-named state, maintaining the hegemony of the social democrats in Brazil's richest and most populous region.

Doria garnered 51.73% of the votes to Brazilian Socialist Party candidate Marcio Franca, who received 48.27%.

And former Judge Wilson Witzel, with the Christian Social Party, who had received Bolsonaro's support, won the runoff election for the governorship of Rio de Janeiro state with 59.8% of the votes over Eduardo Paes, who had been the city of Rio de Janeiro's mayor during the 2016 Olympic Games.

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