Brazilians vote in tense presidential race led by right-winger

A supporter (L) of Brazilian presidential candidate for the Workers’ Party (PT) Fernando Haddad argues with supporters (R) of Brazilian presidential for the Social Liberal Party (PSL) Jair Bolsonaro, during a PT campaign rally in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, on Oct. 5, 2018, ahead of Sunday’s election. (AFP/Douglas Magno)
Updated 07 October 2018

Brazilians vote in tense presidential race led by right-winger

  • Former paratrooper Jair Bolsonaro is thought to be in line for a third of the vote
  • If Bolsonaro gets more than 50 percent of the vote to lead the field of 13 candidates, he will win the presidency outright

BRASILIA: Brazilians began voting on Sunday in a polarized presidential race that could result in the election of a far-right former army captain, whose praise of past dictatorships enrages critics but whose promise of a brutal crackdown on crime and corruption has electrified his supporters.
Front-runner Jair Bolsonaro has surged in opinion polls in the past week, all but guaranteeing a spot in the second round of voting and raising a slim chance of a first-round victory.
He is riding a wave of anger at the establishment after the uncovering of one of the world’s largest political graft schemes, opposition to a return to power by the leftist Workers Party (PT) blamed for much of that corruption, and fears about spiking crime in the country with more murders than any other.
But Brazil is split over what cost to its democracy it may pay if it chooses Bolsonaro, a long-time congressman who has repeatedly praised the 1964-85 military regime and suggested that opponents could only win through electoral fraud, although he now vows to respect the democratic process.
Geneis Correa, a 46-year-old business manager in Brasilia, said she voted for Bolsonaro and would support a coup if the PT wins, blaming the party for rampant corruption.
“If they win, it will become Venezuela, people will be hungry, with a currency that is worth nothing,” she said, while exiting a polling station with her daughter.
“If the PT is voted into power and there is a military intervention, I would support it.”
Bolsonaro’s closest rival is PT candidate Fernando Haddad, a former mayor of Sao Paulo and one-time education minister. He is standing in for the party’s imprisoned founder, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Many Brazilians like 65-year-old Ruth Pereira Santos fondly remember the years of rapid growth that Lula oversaw and benefited from his programs that lifted many out of poverty.
“Who could buy a car? Through the love of God today I have a car in my garage. This wasn’t accessible before,” said Santos, a caretaker for the elderly.
Two polls published late on Saturday showed Bolsonaro had increased his lead over Haddad in the past two days, taking 36 percent of voter intentions compared with Haddad’s 22 percent. The pair are deadlocked in a likely run-off vote on Oct. 28 that is required if no candidate takes a majority of valid votes on Sunday.
Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (1100 GMT) and the last will close at 7 p.m. Brasilia time (2200 GMT). Exit polls and official results will start flowing in soon after that because Brazil uses an electronic voting system.
The 147 million voters will choose the president, all 513 members of the lower house of Congress, two-thirds of the 81-member Senate plus governors and lawmakers in all 27 states.
Almost two-thirds of the electorate are concentrated in the more populous south and southeast of Brazil where its biggest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio Janeiro, are located — and where Bolsonaro holds a commanding lead. A quarter of the voters are in the less developed northeast, traditionally a PT stronghold.
In the most polarized election since the end of military rule in 1985, Bolsonaro is backed by a group of retired generals who have criticized the PT governments from 2003-2016 and publicly advocate military intervention if corruption continues.
In a final appeal for votes on a live Facebook stream on Saturday night, Bolsonaro, 63, called on Brazilians to help him clean up the political system and establish better government of Brazil’s rich mineral and agricultural resources.
“We have everything. What we need are politicians who are committed to their country and not to party interests,” he said from his home, where he is recovering from a near-fatal stabbing at a campaign rally. He underwent two emergency surgeries and it is not clear how much campaigning he will be able to do if the vote heads into a runoff.
Bolsonaro, who has compared his campaign to that of US President Donald Trump, dismissed as “fake news” accusations that he was sexist, racist and homophobic.
A Bolsonaro government would speed up the privatization of state companies to reduce Brazil’s budget deficit and relax environmental controls for farming and mining. It would also block efforts to legalize abortion, drugs and gay marriage.
Haddad, who has presented himself as a fiscally responsible moderate, spent the last day of the campaign targeting undecided voters in the Bahia state in Brazil’s northeast, the heartland of the PT’s support, but where Bolsonaro has made gains in polling.
Haddad took Bolsonaro to task for skipping the last presidential debate on Thursday, which other candidates said was a sign he was unprepared to govern. Bolsonaro said he could not attend on the orders of his medical team.
The PT candidate said Bolsonaro wants to “win in the first round vote without having to debate the issues and that is bad for democracy.”
“We have the ability to defeat what Bolsonaro stands for, in terms of reversing social gains, in terms of civility, in terms of solidarity and in terms of mutual respect,” Haddad said.

Pompeo: Anti-Daesh coalition should shift focus to Africa

Updated 18 min 32 sec ago

Pompeo: Anti-Daesh coalition should shift focus to Africa

  • Saudi Arabia’s FM and Pompeo discussed joint efforts in confronting terrorism
  • Pompeo urged members of the coalition fighting against Daesh to take extremist detainees back to their countries

LONDON: There is growing concern about the Daesh threat outside of Iraq and Syria, and the coalition fighting the terrorist organization should focus on west Africa and the Sahel region, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

Pompeo also urged members of the coalition fighting against Daesh to take extremist detainees back to their countries and step up their funding to help restore infrastructure in Iraq and Syria, parts of which have been severely damaged by conflict.

"Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody, and impose accountability for the atrocities they have perpetrated," Pompeo said at the opening of a meeting of foreign ministers from the global coalition to defeat Daesh.
Pompeo vowed that the United States will keep fighting the extremist group, and reassured worried allies convened in Washington.
"The United States will continue to lead the coalition and the world on this essential security effort," Pompeo said as he opened a day of talks in Washington.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan headed the Kingdom’s delegation at the meeting on Thursday and met with Pompeo.

The foreign minister said that two officials discussed “the strong ties” between their countries and “the joint efforts in confronting terrorism in the region and the world.”

Daesh has lost almost all of its territory in Iraq and Syria. Former leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was killed in a US raid last month, but the militant group remains a security threat in Syria and beyond.
Some 10,000 Daesh detainees and tens of thousands of family members remain in camps and prisons in northeastern Syria guarded by the Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States. Washington is pushing European countries to take their citizens back, but so far they have been reluctant to do so.
(With Reuters)