The Argentine government reacted cautiously on Sunday to the outcome of the Brazilian elections’ first round, in which the far-right candidate of the Social Liberal Party, Jair Bolsonaro, was the big winner with 46.7 percent of the vote.
The total was not enough to win the race outright but does position him as the clear favorite ahead of the runoff on October 28, in which he will compete against the Workers Party’s (PT) Fernando Haddad, who got 29.3 percent of the vote.
Through a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry yesterday, the Macri administration congratulated the Brazilian government and people for the event – “it reaffirms the strength of democratic institutions – and indicated it awaits for the outcome of the runoff to “continue working, along with whoever gets elected that day, on the shared goal of deepening the process of integration and the common projects that unite us.”
The Argentine government has avoided taking sides on the elections of its largest trading partner, the only information being contrasting reports from different media outlets. Some assured the Macri administration would rather work with Haddad, others with Bolsonaro.
As for the candidates, the PT presidential hopeful stated last week that he is a personal friend of President Mauricio Macri’s, while Bolsonaro has not made any public comments regarding the relationship he would seek to have with Argentina, should he end up taking office.
Even though the PSL candidate is the clear favorite to take the Palacio Planalto, Haddad has already began to garner support ahead of the runoff. Immediately after the first tallies arrived, center-left candidate Ciro Gomes, who came in third with 14.5 percent of the vote, reportedly indicated he will “continue fighting to defend democracy and against fascism.” “Not him, without a doubt,” he said, in a clear reference to the #EleNao hashtag, symbol of the movement that was born to repudiate the homophobic, racist, misogynistic and dictatorship-apologist candidate. Haddad will also seek to attract the almost 5 percent of the vote obtained by Gerardo Alckmin.
Most surveys ahead of yesterday’s polls indicated that Bolsonaro would beat Haddad in a potential runoff. However, he would do so by an extremely close margin, as a substantial part of the votes neither got would go his way, given the ideological chasm existing between Bolsonaro and the rest of the candidates.
However, Haddad also bears the cross the PT symbol has become to a large part of the electorate. The party’s image has been severely deteriorated as a result of the massive corruption scandal known as “Operation Car Wash” (Lava Jato), in which all of its most senior officials were implicated. In fact, Haddad is only running because the party’s main figure, former President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva was banned from doing so as a result of a corruption conviction related to the case. The party is also associated with the economic crisis in which Brazil has been immersed in since the scandal broke, in 2014. The country went through a deep recession in 2015 and 2016, and only experienced mild comparative growth in 2017.
Bolsonaro, on his end, has the support of the financial sector, agribusiness groups and evangelical churches, a powerful sector in the widely religious Brazilian landscape. Moreover, it would not be surprising that the stabbing he received during the campaign, which pierced his liver and put him in the hospital for weeks, resulted in increased support.
The two candidates are set to debate six times in the next 20 days, something that will provide them with a platform to sway an electorate that will make one of the most consequential choices in the last decades of Brazilian politics. Meanwhile, Argentina looks on.