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Brazil’s Far-Right Presidential Candidate Leads But Doesn’t Avoid A Runoff

Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate of Brazil's Social Liberal Party, arrives to cast his vote in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
Image credit: Ricardo Moraes

Updated at 1:40 ET Monday

Preliminary results show that Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right congressman and former army captain, returned a commanding lead in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election.

Now, with 99 percent of the votes counted, Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party will head to a runoff on Oct. 28.

Bolsonaro, the leader of Brazil’s Social Liberal Party, led with 46 percent of the vote. Haddad — a stand-in for jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who’s currently serving 12 years for corruption — trailed Bolsonaro with 29 percent.

The 55-year-old mayor of São Paulo and former education minister has worked to appeal to working-class Brazilians who remember Lula’s government as a boon to social programs and living standards.

Bolsonaro, 63, fell just short of capturing the majority he needed (more than 50 percent of votes) to claim an outright win, and avert a runoff against leftist rival Fernando Haddad.

This election has surfaced deep divisions in Latin America’s largest democracy, NPR’s Philip Reeves reports from Rio de Janeiro, “between those who think Bolsonaro will combat rampant crime and corruption and others alienated by his misogynist and racist comments, and his admiration for Brazil’s past military dictatorship.”

With the presidency in sight, The New York Times reports, “Bolsonaro said Sunday night he intended to unite a nation that is ‘on the brink of chaos’ and said, ‘Together we will rebuild our Brazil.’ ”

Bolsonaro’s popularity grew after he was stabbed last month while campaigning in Juiz de Fora, a city in southeast Brazil.

As NPR’s Sasha Ingber reported for NPR last month: “The coverage of the attack has also increased his presence on national television. Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations in São Paulo, wrote in a tweet that the assassination attempt “increases his chances to make it into the 2nd round. Frequent updates on his health status will give him visibility on primetime TV. Adversaries won’t be able to attack him as easily as before.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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