Bolsonaro rallies thousands of supporters at Brazil military parade

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro waves national flags during a military parade on Sept 7, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
The President's criticisms of Brazil's voting system have stirred calls for a military coup from some of his more radical backers. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA - Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro mixed an Independence Day military parade on Wednesday morning with a political rally in the capital Brasilia, attended by tens of thousands of supporters less than a month before a heated election.

Opponents have criticised the far-right leader for co-opting the bicentennial national holiday to serve his re-election campaign, in which opinion polls show him trailing leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ahead of an Oct 2 vote.

"Our battle is a fight between good and evil," Mr Bolsonaro told his supporters from aboard a sound truck, amid cries of "Lula, you thief" and banners calling for military intervention in Brazil's Supreme Court.

Mr Bolsonaro did not explicitly attack Brazil's judiciary, but he has spent more than a year blasting the courts that run Brazil's electronic voting machines, which he calls vulnerable to fraud, without giving proof.

The President's criticisms of Brazil's voting system have stirred calls for a military coup from some of his more radical backers.

Some fear he is laying the groundwork to claim electoral fraud like his US ally, former president Donald Trump, and reject a potential Lula victory.

Brasilia local authorities maintained a tight security cordon to keep Bolsonaro supporters from advancing toward the Supreme Court, as his supporters attempted to do a year ago in a march that some said was inspired by the Jan 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol.

Shortly before his speech, Mr Bolsonaro presided over a military parade celebrating 200 years of Brazil's independence from Portugal.

The parade included marching troops, armoured vehicles, air force flyovers and tractors from the powerful farm sector, which is core to Mr Bolsonaro's political support.

Supporters drowned out a military choir by chanting "Our flag will never be red!" - a jab at the colours of Mr Lula's party.

Mr Bolsonaro planned to lead similar military celebrations and a second rally on Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana beachfront later on Wednesday.

Opinion polls show Mr Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2010, leading the election race, but his advantage has narrowed in recent months.

The latest surveys still show Mr Lula defeating Mr Bolsonaro by double digits in a likely run-off vote at the end of October. REUTERS

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