Far-right Jair Bolsonaro poised to win Brazil’s presidency

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), react during a runoff election, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 28, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 October 2018

Far-right Jair Bolsonaro poised to win Brazil’s presidency

  • Brazil's Supreme Electoral Tribunal says that with more than 88 percent of the votes counted, 55.7 percent supported Bolsonaro, while 44.3 percent backed leftist Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party

SAO PAULO: Far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro took an all but insurmountable lead in the race for Brazil’s presidency Sunday evening, as voters apparently looked past warnings that the brash former army captain would erode democracy and embraced a chance for radical change after years of turmoil.
With more than 94 percent of the votes counted, 55.5 percent supported Bolsonaro, compared to 44.4 percent for leftist Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Final results were expected later Sunday, but Bolsonaro’s commanding lead was virtually unreachable.
In Rio de Janeiro, his supporters set off fireworks on iconic Copacabana Beach. In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, cars horns could be heard honking and crowds celebrated as the results came in.
Bolsonaro went into Sunday the clear front-runner after getting 46 percent of the vote to Haddad’s 29 percent in the first round of the election Oct. 7, which had 13 contenders. After opinion polls in recent weeks had Bolsonaro leading by as much as 18 percentage points, the race had tightened in recent days as several Brazilian heavyweights came out against Bolsonaro, arguing that he was a direct risk to the world’s fourth largest democracy.
Bolsonaro, who cast himself as a political outsider despite a 27-year career in Congress, is the latest of several leaders around the globe to gain prominence by mixing tough, often violent talk with hard-right positions. But he is also very much a product of a perfect storm in Brazil that made his messages less marginalized: widespread anger at the political class amid years of corruption, an economy that has struggled to recover after a punishing recession and a surge in violence.
“I feel in my heart that things will change,” said Sandra Coccato, a 68-year-old small business owner, after she voted for Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo. “Lots of bad people are leaving, and lots of new, good people are entering. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Bolsonaro rose in prominence amid disgust with Brazil’s political system. In particular, many Brazilians are furious with the Workers’ Party for its role in the graft scheme, known as “Carwash” and Haddad has struggled to build momentum with his promises of a return to the boom times by investing in health and education and reducing poverty.
Along the way, he has also raised serious concerns that he will usher in a rollback of civil rights and a weakening of institutions in what remains a young democracy, especially since he has waxed nostalgic for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and said he would name military men to his Cabinet.
In a highly unusual moment, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Jose Dias Toffoli, read out part of the Constitution to reporters after he voted.
“The future president must respect institutions, must respect democracy, the rule of law, the judiciary branch, the national Congress and the legislative branch,” Toffoli said in remarks many took to be a rebuke of Bolsonaro and his more extreme positions.
As late as Sunday morning, Haddad was still holding out hope that he could win after several key endorsements late Saturday.
Among them were a popular former Supreme Court justice, Joaquim Barbosa, who tweeted support for Haddad, saying Bolsonaro’s candidacy scared him. Likewise, former Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, one of the biggest crusaders against corruption in Haddad’s Workers’ Party in recent years, endorsed Haddad for similar reasons.
One of the most important endorsements, particularly for young people, came from Youtuber Felipe Neto, whose channel has nearly 27 million followers.
Neto said he was troubled by Bolsonaro’s comments a week ago that “red” leftists would be run out of Brazil.
“In 16 years of the (Workers’ Party), I have been robbed, but never threatened,” Neto said by Twitter.
The past few years in Brazil have been exceptionally turbulent. In 2016, then-President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party was impeached and removed from office on charges that many on the left felt were politically motivated. The economy suffered a two-year-long recession and is only beginning to emerge, with growth stagnant and unemployment high. And scores of politicians and executives have been jailed in the Carwash corruption investigation that uncovered a multi-billion-dollar scheme to trade public contracts and official favors for bribes and kickbacks.
That instability unleashed extreme anger with the political class but also revealed deep divisions in Brazilian society, and this campaign was the most polarized in decades. There were numerous reports of politically motivated violence, especially directed at gay people, whom Bolsonaro has disparaged. Bolsonaro himself was stabbed and almost died at a campaign event in early September.
“I’m not crazy about Bolsonaro. But he is our way to keep the Workers’ Party out of office,” said Rafaela Rosa, a 32-year-old teacher, after voting Sunday in Sao Paulo. “We have had enough corruption and now we need to clean up.”
Many observers predicted that a newcomer would emerge to harness that anti-establishment anger. Instead, support coalesced around Bolsonaro, who both is and isn’t an outsider: He has served for nearly three decades in Congress, but he has often been at the margins of that institution and he painted himself as just the strong man Brazil needed to dismantle a failing system. Bolstering his rebel image is his reputation for offensive statements and sometimes extreme views, including insulting women, gays and blacks.
Bolsonaro’s campaign first gained traction with his promises to go after violent crime in a country that leads the world in homicides and where many Brazilians live in daily fear of muggings or burglaries. But his vows to loosen gun laws and give police a freer hand to use force against suspects have also raised concerns that a Bolsonaro presidency could lead to a bloody crackdown and an erosion of civil rights.
The campaign gained momentum by winning over much of the business community with promises of enacting market-friendly reforms that would reduce the size of the Brazilian state, including cutting ministries and privatizing state companies.
 


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.