Brazilian leftists heaved a huge collective sigh of relief on Sunday night after Jair Bolsonaro – the homophobic, dictatorship-praising far-right front-runner – fell just short of a stunning first-round victory that would have made him president of one of the world’s largest and most diverse democracies. Their relief may well be short-lived. Fernando Haddad, Bolsonaro’s opponent in the pivotal second-round vote on 28 October, has a mountain almost as high as Brazil’s Pico da Neblina to climb if he is to scupper the right-wing populist’s dramatic political ascent. Bolsonaro secured more than 49m votes on Sunday – 46% of the total and just shy of the majority he needed for an outright win – while his Workers’ party (PT) opponent won just 29%, or 31m votes.
ust to draw level with Bolsonaro, Haddad would need virtually every single one of the voters who opted for the third and fourth-placed candidates, Ciro Gomes and Geraldo Alckmin, to switch to his side.
“The path for Haddad to close that gap looks almost impossible,” said Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, describing Bolsonaro as a “huge favourite” to win. “If you simply add Bolsonaro plus two-thirds of Alckmin’s [5m] votes, it’s over.”
Those hoping Haddad can still win believe he must now position himself as a centrist champion of democracy who can prevent Brazil from lurching back towards the kind of murderous, authoritarian rule Bolsonaro has so often said he admires.