Who is Jair Bolsonaro? A look at Brazil’s far-right presidential frontrunner

World Today

Who is Jair Bolsonaro? A look at Brazil's far-right presidential frontrunner

Brazilians will vote for a new president Sunday. Leading the pack: far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, whose campaign tactics and rhetoric have led some to compare him to U.S. President Donald Trump.

CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco has more on the controversial candidate.

Jair Bolsonaro, the 63-year-old retired army captain turned politician, is now hovering around 30 percent of the intended vote. But he still hasn’t reached anywhere near the fifty percent needed for a first-round victory.

Bolsonaro has been a congressman since 1991, but has only had two minor bills passed into law in his 27 years in government. As the leader of the Social Liberal Party, he is best known for his sexist, homophobic and racist remarks.

At a rally last weekend organized by a Facebook group, thousands of Brazilian women gathered in several major cities to chant “#Ele Nao,” or “#Not Him,” the slogan of a campaign against a man they say is a threat to their rights.

“How can I vote for someone that says women are second-class citizens and thinks women deserve to earn lower salaries because we have children,” asked Gianna Araujo, a teacher in Rio de Janeiro.

But the leading presidential candidate also has many supporters. He’s promised to sweep away political corruption and defeat any left-wing opponents.

A near-fatal stabbing in early September left Bolsonaro unable to campaign, forcing him to miss critical time on the campaign trail. But his three sons, all politicians, have been filling-in for him–and they don’t shy away from using Trump-like rhetoric.

“Everybody here believes that Brazil can be great again, and that’s what we are going to do,” says Flavio Bolsonaro, who is running for a seat in the Brazilian senate.

Joao Feres, a political analyst from Rio de Janeiro State University, says Bolsonaro’s rising popularity has a precedent. “I think that Bolsonaro has many characteristics he shares with Donald Trump,” he explained. “This anti-political profile he tries to present, this idea of ruling without concessions to politicians or to political parties.”

But many supporters believe Bolsonaro, who admires the military government that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, has the strong hand needed to put the country on a different path.

Bolsonaro is expected to easily make it to the second round, and some observers see a path to victory for him. But at the same time, there are polls indicating his rejection rate is rising amid Brazil’s polarized political landscape.