Far-right firebrand Bolsonaro elected Brazil President

Outspoken former army captain Jair Bolsonaro wins the election with promises to crack down on crime, but some are dismayed at his views on human rights and minorities.
Mr Jair Bolsonaro's supporters cheering after his victory was announced on Sunday. The 63-year-old won a convincing 55.1 per cent of votes in the run-off election. Mr Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has promised to gut endemic political corrup
Mr Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters cheering after his victory was announced on Sunday. The 63-year-old won a convincing 55.1 per cent of votes in the run-off election.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Jair Bolsonaro's supporters cheering after his victory was announced on Sunday. The 63-year-old won a convincing 55.1 per cent of votes in the run-off election. Mr Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has promised to gut endemic political corrup
Mr Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has promised to gut endemic political corruption and wage a brutal battle against powerful drug gangs. PHOTO: REUTERS

Trump admirer aims to realign Brazil with more advanced economies

RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA • Mr Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand former army captain, has won Brazil's presidential election in convincing fashion, wooing voters with promises to gut endemic political corruption and wage a brutal battle against powerful drug gangs.

Mr Bolsonaro, who early in his legislative career declared he was "in favour" of dictatorships and demanded that Congress be disbanded, vowed after his Sunday night win to adhere to democratic principles while holding up a copy of the country's Constitution.

His transition team planned to meet President Michel Temer's team yesterday to start work ahead of his Jan 1 inauguration.

Mr Bolsonaro's election win has alarmed critics around the globe, mainly because of his vows to sweep away leftist political opponents and his history of making insulting comments about gays, women and minorities.

His victory brings Brazil's military back into the political limelight after it spent three decades in the barracks following its dictatorship of the country from 1964 to 1985. Several retired generals will serve as ministers and close advisers.

"You are all my witnesses that this government will defend the Constitution, of liberty and of God," Mr Bolsonaro said in a Facebook live video in his first comments after his victory.

An outspoken admirer of US President Donald Trump, Mr Bolsonaro pledged to realign Brazil with more advanced economies, overhauling diplomatic priorities after nearly a decade and a half of leftist rule.

Mr Trump called Mr Bolsonaro to wish him good luck, auguring closer political ties between the two largest economies in the Americas - both now led by conservative populists promising to overturn the political establishment.

Mr Bolsonaro won 55.1 per cent of the votes in a run-off election against left-wing hopeful Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party (PT), who garnered 44.9 per cent, according to electoral authority TSE.

The 63-year-old controversial congressman's rise has been propelled by rejection of the leftist PT that ran Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years and was ousted two years ago in the midst of a deep recession and political graft scandal.

Thousands of Mr Bolsonaro's supporters cheered and set off fireworks outside his home in Rio de Janeiro's beachfront Barra de Tijuca neighbourhood as his victory was announced.

Investors also cheered Mr Bolsonaro's ascent, relieved that he could keep the PT out of power and hopeful that he would carry out fiscal reforms proposed by his orthodox economic guru.

"I don't idolise Bolsonaro and I don't know if he will govern well, but we are hopeful. People want the PT out, they can't take any more corruption," said Ms Tatiana Cunha, a 39-year-old systems analyst in the midst of the noisy celebrations.

Mr Bolsonaro has promised to cut bureaucracy for businesses. He said he is committed to fiscal discipline, and has called for the early elimination of the federal government's budget deficit.

The real currency has gained about 10 per cent against the US dollar in the last 30 days as Mr Bolsonaro's prospects of winning increased. Sao Paulo's benchmark Bovespa stock index has risen 13.5 per cent since mid-last month.

Investors are particularly heartened by his choice of Mr Paulo Guedes, a Chicago University-trained economist and investment banker, as his economic guru and future economy minister.

Mr Guedes, who wants to privatise an array of state enterprises, said the new government will try to erase Brazil's unsustainable Budget within a year, simplify and reduce taxes, and create 10 million jobs by cutting payroll taxes.

New rules will boost investment in infrastructure, he told reporters.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2018, with the headline 'Far-right firebrand Bolsonaro elected Brazil President'. Print Edition | Subscribe