By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s divisive 2018 presidential election will go to a deciding second round after controversial far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won an emphatic victory in the first round of voting on Sunday (October 7th) while falling just short of the fifty percent needed to be declared Brazil’s next president.
The 63-year-old former army captain received 46 percent of the vote and will now face his left-wing rival, Fernando Haddad, who won 29 percent, in the second round runoff on Sunday, October 28th.
Bolsonaro reacted to Sunday’s results from his home in Barra da Tijuca where he is recovering from injuries sustained from his September 6th stabbing.
Speaking on Facebook Live, flanked by his economics expert Paulo Guedes and wife Michelle, doing sign language, Bolsonaro exclaimed, “We will unite our people. United we will be a great nation. Nobody has the potential we have.”
The conservative right-winger, who has often been referred to as “Brazil’s Donald Trump,” also began to lay the groundwork for his showdown with Haddad, firing an opening salvo at the Workers’ Party (PT).
“The second round won’t be easy, they (PT) have billions to spend,” he said, adding that Brazilians now have to choose “prosperity, freedom, family, and God” or “the path of Venezuela….Our country is on the verge of chaos. We can’t take any more steps to the left.”
Meanwhile, at a hotel in São Paulo, Haddad, emphasized to his supporters that given Sunday’s results the stakes for the country have never been greater.
“These results are a challenge,” said Haddad referring to his seventeen percent deficit to Bolsonaro. “The results are expressive, and makes us realize the risks that Brazil’s democracy faces.”
The handpicked successor of imprisoned ex-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), vowed to “defend Brazil and its people, especially the poorest people. I’ve always been on the side of freedom and democracy. I’m not going to give up my values.”
Analysts now expect an intense idealogical battle over the next three weeks as both Bolsonaro and Haddad, on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum, scramble to garner support from the center.
Following Haddad in the voting results on Sunday were longtime politician, Ciro Gomes, who won thirteen percent and centrist candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, with five percent.
In addition to president, Sunday’s election saw Brazilians cast their vote for members of congress and state governors.
In a surprising development in the Rio de Janeiro gubernatorial race, Wilson Witzel, who some polls pegged at having one percent of intended votes only three weeks ago, gained 42 percent of the vote on Sunday.
Witzel, a former federal judge, will now go to the second round to face former Rio de Janeiro city mayor Eduardo Paes, who garnered twenty percent of the vote.
In São Paulo’s gubernatorial race, John Doria, who resigned as the mayor of São Paulo city to run for governor, advanced to the runoff to face incumbant Márcio França. Doria and França had 32 percent and 22 percent of the vote respectively.