By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In perhaps the most divisive election in Brazil’s history, right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro has been elected the next president of Brazil, winning 55 percent of the vote over his leftist rival, Fernando Haddad, who tallied 45 percent.
In total, approximately ten million votes separated the two candidates with over 57 million voters going for Bolsonaro while some 47 million went with Haddad.
In front of his condominium in Barra da Tijuca, Bolsonaro began his televised victory celebration with a group prayer led by his colleague senator Magno Malta. The new president-elect then launched into his prepared victory speech vowing that “this government will be a defender of the Constitution, of democracy, and of freedom.”
“This is a promise,” he exclaimed, “not from some party, it is not the vain word of a man, it is an oath to God.”
Despite being heavily criticized for what were perceived to be extreme right-wing views and statements deemed as homophobic, racist, and misogynistic, the 63-year-old former army captain emphasized that “freedom is a fundamental principle.”
“As a defender of liberty, I will guide a government that upholds and protects the rights of citizens who perform their duties and respect the law…that’s how our government will be: constitutional and democratic.”
“Our government will break paradigms, we will trust people, we will reduce bureaucracy, simplify and allow the citizen, the entrepreneur, to have more freedom and build their future.”
Sunday’s deciding second round runoff was the culmination of a bitterly contested election that divided much of the country. Bolsonaro closed his speech by addressing this divide and stressing he would “unite and pacify Brazil and, under the Constitution and the law, we will constitute a great nation.”
Meanwhile, from a São Paulo hotel, Haddad delivered his concession speech encouraging his supporters, “Do not be afraid, we will be here. We will not abandon your cause.”
Despite the loss, Haddad stressed, “In four years we will have a new election, we have to guarantee the institutions, we will not leave our professions, our offices, we will not stop exercising our citizenship.”
The former mayor of São Paulo emphasized that “[i]n the name of democracy, we must defend the thought and freedom of the 45 million who support us. We have a responsibility to oppose and put the Brazilian people above all else.”
In his speech, Haddad omitted any mention of the new president-elect. When asked afterwards the reason for the omission, Haddad responded, “[Bolsonaro] called me a scoundrel and said that if he was elected he would have me arrested.”
As word began to spread of Bolsonaro’s victory, the president-elect received a slew of congratulatory messages from world leaders from Argentina, Italy, Mexico, and a statement from the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, whom Bolsonaro has been heavily critical of.
Bolsonaro also confirmed he had received a congratulatory phone call from the political figure he is most often compared to, U.S. president, Donald J. Trump.
“We just received a call from the President of the United States, @realDonaldTrump congratulating us on this historic election!” wrote Bolsonaro, sometimes called the “tropical Trump,” on Twitter. “We express the desire to bring these two great nations closer together and to advance on the path of freedom and prosperity!”
Current Brazil president, Michel Temer, also took to Twitter to congratulate Bolsonaro and stress unity in the country after the extremely polarized election.
“I just congratulated the president-elect @jairbolsonaro for the historic victory won today. After the election, it’s time for everyone, united, to continue working for Brazil.”