What you need to know about Jair Bolsonaro - and why everyone’s so worried he's now president of Brazil

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Harvey Day

Far-right Congressman and former military man Jair Bolsonaro has won Brazil’s presidential election - and lots of people are now terrified. Here’s why they’re so worried

An extreme, far-right politician, once described as “the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world,” has won a convincing victory in Brazil’s latest presidential election.

Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former Army captain, won 55.2% of the vote compared to 44.8% for Fernando Haddad of the left-wing Workers’ Party, according to the BBC

Defeated left-wing candidate Fernando Haddad addressing his supporters

But plenty of people in Brazil are worried about this ‘Trump of the Tropics’ and what his victory could mean for the country.

Here’s everything you need to know about him and his policies.

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Jair Bolsonaro: Who is he?  

Bolsonaro is a member of the (misnamed) Social Liberal Party, a socially conservative, pro-market, nationalist party.

Following his election victory, he will take office as the 38th president on 1 January 2019.

He served in the Brazilian Army’s field artillery and parachutist groups, before running for the Rio de Janeiro City Council and later for Congress, where he became known as an opponent of left-wing policies such as same-sex marriage and abortion.

Jair Bolsonaro: Why did he win?

Bolsonaro replaces the deeply unpopular president, Michel Temer, who had a truly abysmal approval rating of just 7%.

Commentators have suggested that Bolsonaro’s victory could be a reaction to the years of economic crisis and political scandals that have plagued Brazil.

Temer’s predecessor Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office on the grounds of ‘breaking budgetary laws’. Meanwhile, Rousseff’s predecessor Lula da Silva, a founding member of the Workers’ Party, is currently in jail on charges of ‘money laundering and passive corruption’.

Interestingly, Lula da Silva – a much more moderate politician – announced his candidacy for the 2018 presidential election and was even leading in the polls, but was barred from running because of his convictions. 

Beleaguered former left-wing presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva

Jair Bolsonaro: What does he believe?

Bolsonaro has presented himself as tough on crime and is a proponent of gun rights. “Every honest citizen, man or woman, if they want to have a weapon in their homes - depending on certain criteria - should be able to have one,” he said on Rede TV.

He is also a strong opponent of abortion and has promised to defund non-governmental organisations that provide them. Brazilian LGBTQ groups are fearful of what the result could mean for their rights and safety; “Yes, I’m homophobic – and very proud of it,” Bolsonaro once proclaimed.

Bolsonaro’s supporters - and one wearing a Trump mask - celebrate their candidate’s victory     

Unlike Donald Trump, he has promised to not withdraw Brazil from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement - but there are still fears that he could allow mass deforestation, agriculture and mining in the Amazon, which would obviously be extremely bad news for climate change action

Opponents are particularly concerned by Bolsonaro’s defence of Brazil’s former military regime, which killed political opponents, and he’s even said he is “in favour of dictatorship”.

During the campaign, he also threatened to lock up his left-wing opponents. “Either they go overseas, or they go to jail,” Bolsonaro told thousands of cheering supporters, echoing Trump’s infamous ‘Lock her up’ chant. 

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(Images: Getty)


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Harvey Day

Digital writer for / @harveyday94 /

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