Brazil candidates make final campaign pitches

  • 27 Oct 2018

Over 140 million Brazilians are eligible to vote in the second round of the presidential elections on Sunday. It follows what many are calling one of the most tense election campaigns in the country's recent history.

An electoral employee begins the assembly of a voting station in preparation for the elections in a public school at Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, October 27, 2018. ( AP )

Brazil's presidential candidates made their final push for voters on Saturday, with pitches that echoed the gulf between them: leftist Fernando Haddad held a "peace rally" in the favelas, while far-right frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro reached out on Twitter.

On the last day before a runoff that will decide who leads Latin America's biggest country for the next four years, Brazilians are deeply divided, though the clear favourite is Bolsonaro, an ex-army captain whom some call a "Tropical Trump," whose aggressive social media campaign has tapped into a widespread anti-establishment rage.

The latest poll, published on Thursday, gave Bolsonaro 56 percent of the vote, and 44 percent for Haddad.

TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan reports. 

Haddad is standing in for ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a popular but controversial politician who was barred from running while serving a 12-year jail term for corruption.

The Workers' Party candidate insisted in an emotionally charged rally that he can still pull off a come-from-behind win.

"This thing is going to turn around," Haddad, 55, told a crush of thousands of white-clad supporters in the largest shantytown in Sao Paulo, a city he formerly served as mayor.

"The people are waking up to the leap into the unknown that Bolsonaro's candidacy represents," he said.

"Brazil still remembers," he added -- a pointed reference to Bolsonaro's outspoken nostalgia for the military regime that ruled Brazil with an iron fist from 1964 to 1985.

The crowd was in such a frenzy that Haddad could barely move through the sea of people as he made his way to the back of a truck to give his speech.

"We're going to win. Democracy is going to win, not authoritarianism. We don't want another dictatorship. Brazil doesn't need guns; it needs social projects," supporter Emerson Santana, 44, told AFP.

Presidential candidate for the leftist Workers Party Fernando Haddad speaks to supporters during his campaign rally "in defence of democracy" in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.(AP)

Different visions 

Haddad is promising voters a return to the golden years under Lula, who slashed poverty while presiding over an economic bonanza from 2003 to 2010, before the economy went bust and the Workers' Party, along with most of the political class, got bogged down in the slime of several massive corruption scandals.

Bolsonaro, 63, meanwhile harks back to a different past: that of the "Brazilian miracle" of industrialisation that took place under the efficient but brutal military dictatorship.

In a country disgusted with massive corruption, violent crime and economic malaise, his message has sold better than Haddad's.

He has also successfully presented himself as an anti-establishment outsider, despite the fact he has served in Congress for the past 27 years.

But he repulses a large part of the electorate and many outside the country with his overtly misogynistic, racist and homophobic rhetoric.

He once told a lawmaker he opposed that she "wasn't worth raping," he has said he would rather see his sons die than come out as gay; and he said after visiting one black community that they "do nothing; they're so useless I doubt they can procreate."

Bolsonaro made his final campaign pitches on Saturday on social media as he has done since he was stabbed in the stomach by an assailant at a rally last month.

"The day when we'll win back our independence is almost here, the country's first step toward justice, employment, security and freedom," he wrote on Twitter.

Brazil's Presidential pre-candidate and conservative lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro, speaks during a meeting of the "In Defence of Muncipalities" congress, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 23, 2018.(AP)

'Scares me'

Bolsonaro also softened his tone in the final hours.

"The change we're going to bring to Brazil will come through defending the law and obeying the constitution.... The rights of all citizens will be preserved," he tweeted, fending off accusations of authoritarian tendencies.

"This country belongs to all of us," he added on Facebook.

"A Brazil of different opinions, colors and orientations."

Haddad nevertheless got a key last-minute endorsement from former Supreme Court judge Joaquim Barbosa, the country's first black chief justice and a widely respected figure.

"For the first time in 32 years of exercising my right to vote, a candidate scares me. That's why I will vote for Fernando Haddad," he tweeted.

Haddad has been making up ground in the polls: his 12-point deficit on Thursday was better than the 18 points he trailed by the week before.

Two final polls will be published on Saturday evening.