Brasilian Presidential Debate: Among the Wreckage, Bolsonaro is still alive

Photo: Manuel Ortiz Escámez 

By Fernando Cruz / Terra 360 – Global Exchange 

After going through hell in the worst week of the campaign, Bolsonaro arrived at the debate staggering but did not give up. He avoided a knockout in a tough clash with Lula.

Last week ended poorly for President Jair Bolsonaro. After his disastrous visit to the Sanctuary of Aparecida, where he transformed a religious event into a stage for his campaign, Bolsonaro granted an equally catastrophic interview to a podcast. On Friday, he declared that something “clicked” between him and 14-15 year old Venezuelan teenagers he had met, suggesting a sexual attraction. In the previous week, he stated that Lulas northeastern voters are illiterate.

Thus, the candidate for re-election arrived at the first debate weakened by a pedophile stigma on Sunday, October 16th. The second round of presidential elections was organized by the Band network. Despite his weak commencement in the struggle ensued between him and former president Lula, there was no eventual knockout. If even possible to declare Lula the winner, it is by a very small margin. Bolsonaro on the other hand, did not take any beating and managed to avoid further damage to his candidacy.

Divided into three parts, the first debate was clearly won by Lula. He rightly focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, emphasizing Bolsonaro’s negligence that generated almost 700,000 deaths in the country. “You delayed the vaccine, then let a corruption case happen, denounced by the CPI (Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry). The concrete fact is that your negligence led 680,000 people to die, when more than half of them could have been saved.” accused Lula. Bolsonaro failed to deter the perception that, in fact, he had a huge responsibility for the outcome of the pandemic. 

After a dull second part, in which the candidates answered questions from journalists, the heat regenerated in the end with Bolsonaro at an advantage. He counterattacked with the corruption subject, despite the accusation of his family buying 51 properties with cash. Although the topic was mentioned, Lula did not adequately explore the matter. He even managed to provide Bolsonaro almost six minutes in accusing him of setting up a corruption scheme at Petrobras, a state-owned oil and gas giant.

The two continued with accusations toward each other promoting fake news and lies about each campaign. They discussed topics of little interest to the public, especially the so-called undecided, a part of the voter considered decisive for the election. The two talked about universities, the appointment of ministers to the Federal Supreme Court, public constructions (the San Francisco river),  and the Amazon Regions among others.

Despite being better structured than the debates in the first round, the two failed to discuss projects in depth that are relevant to the country, such as the economy. It is of high concern, including inflation and generating new jobs. Thus, the debate had less audience than previous rounds.

Even so, for the undecided, Lula won the fight with 54% of voters, according to the AtlasIntel poll. 32% indicated that Bolsonaro won the confrontation. The remaining 14% did not know how to respond.

Without a big win, everything indicates that the dispute will be heated in a couple of weeks, as the election is still undecided. Between aggressions and accusations, Bolsonaro showed that he is alive and represents a danger to Brazilian democracy. He will continue to give Lula a hard time.