Right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro said he would aim to unite a divided country. US President Donald Trump was one of the first to congratulate the new leader.
Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in the second round of presidential election voting on Sunday has moved Brazil sharply to the right after four elections won by the left-leaning Workers’ Party. Bolsonaro won 55 percent of the votes, with about 45 percent for Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad.
US President Donald Trump called Bolsonaro on Sunday and said he had had “a very good conversation” with Brazil’s president-elect. “We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Excellent call, wished him congrats!”
Trump spoke of “a strong commitment to work side-by-side” on issues affecting Brazil, the US and beyond, the White House said.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro has suggested he might pull Brazil out of the Paris agreement on climate change and has promised to cut environmental regulations.
Bolsonaro said immediately after his victory was announced on Sunday night he would try to “pacify” Brazil after a heated election campaign. “This country belongs to all of us, Brazilians by birth or by heart, a Brazil of diverse opinions, colors and orientations,” he said in a live television address. He has promised to crack down on violent crime and has been a frequent critic of womens’ rights, gay rights and black rights, advocated torture and killings by police. He also said he would name military men to his Cabinet.
The election was fought in a febrile and often violent atmosphere, with Brazilians bombarded by WhatsApp messages from Bolsonaro’s camp attacking Haddad.
Bolonaro was stabbed and almost died while campaigning in September.
Muted and less-muted foreign reactions
The German government said in a statement on Monday that it hoped to maintain a bilateral relationship with Brazil “on the basis of our joint values.” Spokesman Steffen Seibert said “it remains to be seen what the policies of the newly elected president will look like.”
French President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile congratulated Bolsonaro on being “elected by the Brazilian people to the presidency,” also highlighting the “common values” of the “promotion of democratic principles.”
The leader of Italy’s right-wing League, Matteo Salvini, welcomed the victory of Bolsonaro with a message on Twitter: “Brazil and its citizens have sent the left home,” he wrote. “The friendship between our people and our governments will be even stronger,” he wrote.
Economic policy the key
Bolsonaro’s future chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni said the new administration would focus on economic priorities and give “business more autonomy.”
The new president’s first foreign visits will be to Chile, followed by the US and Israel.
Bolsonaro has brought multimillionaire investment banker Paulo Guedes on board as his economic adviser. The 69-year-old Guedes is to become “super minister” for economics.
Brazil has one of the largest budget deficits in the world, at just under 8 percent of GDP in 2017, with national debt amounting to roughly 80 percent of GDP.
Haddad said he would mount a “vigorous opposition” after congratulating Bolsonaro via Twitter on Monday.
“President Jair Bolsonaro. I wish you success. Our country deserves the best. I write this message today with a light heart, with sincerity, so that it brings the best out in us all. Good luck!” he wrote.
Haddad said his party would fight on but would respect the country’s institutions. “We have the responsibility to mount an opposition, putting national interests, the interests of the entire Brazilian people, above everything,” Haddad said in a speech to supporters on Monday. “Brazil has possibly never needed the exercise of citizenship more than right now.”
Haddad was selected by the PT to run for the presidency in place of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, an ex-president jailed on corruption charges in April and excluded from the race.
The hashtag EleNaoEMeuPresidente (“HeIsNotMyPresident” in Portuguese) was a top trending topic on Twitter in Brazil on Monday morning.
International civil rights groups have also expressed concern about Bolsonaro’s apparent autocratic tendencies. Human Rights Watch, for example, called on Brazil’s judiciary and other institutions to “resist any attempt to undermine human rights, the rule of law and democracy under Jair Bolsonaro’s government.”
Steve Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund warned that Bolsonaro’s promises about the environment would be “dangerous to the planet.”
The judge who oversaw many cases in a recent corruption investigation wished Bolsonaro well. “It is important to enact, with dialogue and tolerance, reforms to improve the economy and the integrity of the public administration, as well as restoring the population’s confidence in the political class,” Judge Sergio Moro wrote in a statement.
Many Brazilians were angry with the Workers’ Party for its alleged role in a major corruption scandal, known as “Operation Car Wash.”