Oct 8, 2018

Brazil’s presidential election cleaves along sharp ideological lines

Brazilian newsstand on October 8, 2018, the day after the first-round election. Photo: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

On Sunday, October 7, Brazil’s controversial right-wing populist candidate Jair Bolsonaro won a convincing 46% plurality of the presidential vote and came close to achieving a first-round upset, followed by left-wing candidate and former mayor of Sao Paulo Fernando Haddad’s 29%.

Why it matters: The first-round results set up a stark ideological contrast for the October 28 runoff election, as the future of Brazil hangs in the balance. In addition to running one of the world’s top 10 economies, its next president will be an important interlocutor for the United States on global trade, the role of China in Latin America, and the political and humanitarian crisis in neighboring Venezuela.

Where it stands: Despite being hospitalized for several weeks due to serious stab wounds from a September 6 attack, Bolsonaro dramatically extended his lead in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign. However, the highly contested field of 13 presidential candidates denied him the 50% majority required for an outright victory. In the runoff he will face Haddad, a Worker’s Party loyalist who was only named as a candidate on September 11, after courts barred former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from running. Moderate figures lost in the crowded race were former minister and ex-governor of Ceara state Ciro Gomes (12.5%), former governor of Sao Paulo state Geraldo Alckmin (4.8%), and business leader and political neophyte João Amoêdo (2.5%).

The backdrop: Brazil was once among the fastest-growing emerging markets, before entering a prolonged recession in 2014 that coincided with a sprawling corruption scandal known as “Operation Car Wash” that has ensnared dozens of officials and resulted in a 12-year prison sentence for Lula da Silva. Another former president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached on unrelated charges in August 2016.

For the past two years, President Michel Temer, Rousseff's former vice president, has struggled with low approval ratings, corruption scandals, rising crime and violence, a weak economy and an inability to move key pension and fiscal reforms through congress. Brazil’s next president will face the challenge of restoring fiscal health and attracting foreign direct investment while improving security and cleaning up corruption.

What's next: The presidential runoff election will decide whether the government of Latin America's largest country will shift sharply to the right, and possibly become more allied with the Trump Administration, or to the left, as occurred in Mexico’s recent election. Either outcome will have enormous implications for U.S. relations with the region.

Daniel P. Erikson is managing director at Blue Star Strategies and a senior fellow at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,383,582 — Total deaths: 344,077 — Total recoveries — 2,158,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,640,972 — Total deaths: 97,679 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 28 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.