Jair Bolsonaro — Brazil's authoritarian, "sexist, racist and homophobic" presidential candidate — was supposed to have the election sewn up, with the Brazilian left in retreat.
But now, with the first-round vote a week away, Bolsonaro is losing ground to the leftist Fernando Haddad, formerly mayor of Sao Paolo, with a runoff virtually guaranteed for Oct 28.
While Bolsonaro has the support of Brazil's wealthy elite and powerful media-barons, he is monumentally unpopular among working people, women, and young people, who have filled the streets with mass anti-Bolsonaro demonstrations. Bolsonaro, who has close ties to the remnants of the military junta that once ruled Brazil, has mooted imposing martial law on the country if he loses the election.
The state of Brazilian politics is incredibly complicated. This long, but very readable summary in The Nation does a very good job of laying out the current state of play and its historic context.
In living memory, Brazil has lived under a military rule that supported the interests of economic elites, who suppressed their opposition with torture, murder, surveillance, arbitrary detention, and the full suite of horrors that can only be called "fascist." Bolsonaro hearkens wistfully to those days as a golden age for Brazil. He is still leading in the polls, but the latest gains for his opposition are a rare ray of hope in a country whose national politics have slid towards authoritarian rule in service to the one percent.
Bolsonaro enjoys widespread support among police and the military. His vice-presidential candidate, Gen Hamilton Mourão, unnerved Brazilians recently when he said in a situation of "anarchy", a president could declare an "auto-coup". Both men praise the military dictatorship that ran Brazil from 1964-1985, torturing and executing opponents.
"I lived [during] this phase," said Maria do Carmo, 84, who was protesting in Rio and saw relatives imprisoned by the military regime. "It was terrible."
On Sunday, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper called on both leading candidates to make a commitment to democracy, accusing Bolsonaro of "stimulating paranoias of manipulation" and criticising the Workers' party for its attacks on the justice system for Lula's imprisonment it calls politically motivated.
Huge protests in Brazil as far-right presidential hopeful returns home [Dom Phillips/The Guardian]
(via Naked Capitalism)