Bolsonaro stumbles in Brazil’s presidential race

Jair M. Bolsonaro (Facebook grab)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The far-right frontrunner to be Brazil’s next president, Jair Bolsonaro, stumbled Wednesday by spooking previously supportive investors, while a spate of violent incidents pointed to deep polarization caused by the election race.

The Brazilian stock market fell, pulled lower by steep plunges in state-run energy companies, after Bolsonaro made clear his promises for privatizations and pension reform were a lot less ambitious than many expected.

Bolsonaro’s economic advisor was also targeted in a federal fraud probe into alleged mismanagement in investment firms he ran, involving pension funds linked to state-run companies. The prosecutors’ office confirmed the investigation, first reported by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, to AFP.

Sensing an opportunity, trailing leftist candidate Fernando Haddad pressed for televised debates against Bolsonaro ahead of an October 28 run-off to decide the presidency.

It was unclear, however, what impact the developments would have on Bolsonaro’s substantial lead going into that election.

The populist ultra-conservative won 46 percent of the vote in a first round held last Sunday, despite detractors highlighting his contentious past comments demeaning women and gays, and speaking in favor of torture and Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

Haddad, representing the Workers Party despised by Bolsonaro supporters for its 2003-2016 years in power when Brazil went through a boom then devastating bust, scored 29 percent.

A survey released late Wednesday by the Datafolha firm confirmed Bolsonaro’s advantage for the second round, crediting him with 58 percent of voter intentions to 42 percent for Haddad.

p: wjg