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Just 17% of Brazilians have confidence in the country's national government and 77% believe corruption is rampant, according to a Gallup poll conducted ahead of an Oct. 7 presidential election that has seen a far-right crusader emerge as the frontrunner.

Expand chart
Adapted from Gallup World Poll; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Why it matters: The sputtering recovery from a 2014 recession and a series of massive corruption scandals have eroded public faith in Brazil's leaders — paving the way for Jair Bolsonaro, who has been called the "Trump of the Tropics," to secure a leading 28% of the vote in the latest polls. Even if Bolsonaro is ultimately defeated in a run-off, the political crisis in Latin America's largest country appears likely to rumble on.

The big picture: Brazil's last three presidents have been plagued by corruption scandals.

  • 2003-2011: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been barred from running for office despite maintaining widespread popularity in Brazil, began serving a 12-year sentence in April for corruption and money laundering.
  • 2011-2016: Dilma Rouseff was impeached and removed from office in 2016 after being swept up in the same scandal that took down Lula. When she came to power in 2011, 51% of Brazilians said they had confidence in their national government.
  • 2016-present: Former vice president Michel Temer, who succeeded Rousseff after her removal, survived an impeachment vote over corruption claims in August 2017.

The state of play: Bolsonaro, known during his seven terms in congress primarily for his history of offensive comments, has followed the populist playbook to a T — exploiting voter frustrations by vowing to rescue Brazil from its economic despair and purge the government of its criminality with his "military values." He's facing Fernando Haddad, who belongs to the same party as Lula and Rouseff but has little charisma and, at the moment, limited support.

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