Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing former paratrooper, is likely to be elected President of Brazil in the second round on October 28, replacing the hapless Michel Temer, who took over after Dilma Rousseff was ousted in a corruption scandal in 2016.
Rousseff, who was Brazil's first woman leader, did not even manage to retain her Senate seat as the left-wing Workers' Party suffered a humiliating defeat in the congressional elections.
Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, October 7, with the Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad getting just 29 percent.
Nosso país é grande e próspero, não uma facção criminosa para ser comandado de dentro da cadeia. Boa noite a todos!— Jair Bolsonaro 1️⃣7️⃣ (@jairbolsonaro) 8 October 2018
[Tweet: "Our country is large and prosperous, not a criminal faction to be commanded from within the Chain. Good night, everybody!"]
Although he is very different from US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro's populist policies have echoes of the agenda which got the New York-born business tycoon into the White House in 2016.
Looking Back With Nostalgia on Army Rule
He was an officer in the Brazilian Army from 1971 and 1988 and has sought to paint a nostalgic picture of the era — 1964 to 1985 — when a military government ruled the country after ousting left-wing President Joao Goulart and suspending democracy.
Capitalism loves Bolsonaro, restated for the nth time here. The Brazilian real went up 2% this morning, continuing a surge that began when as Bolsonaro started soaring in the polls recently. pic.twitter.com/jinEpEFIDx— Marcelo Rochabrún (@mrochabrun) 8 October 2018
Bolsonaro has made comments about women, black people and homosexuals without any damage to his opinion poll rating.
He has repeatedly called for a return to "traditional values" in Brazil and is thought to be planning to cut quotas for certain deprived minorities in universities and curb transgender rights.
Like Trump, he has sought to paint Brazil as a once great nation fallen on hard times and has blamed corrupt politicians, foreign exploitation and a weakening of the national spirit.
Right-wing populist, Jair Bolsonaro, has won the first round of Brazil's election with 46% of the votes. If he becomes president, he could put democracy at risk pic.twitter.com/VGjKFs7vYy— The Economist (@TheEconomist) 8 October 2018
"Brazil wants change. We've had enough of corruption. Our country is wealthy — it can't fall into the wrong hands," said one of his supporters, lawyer Roseli Milhomem, 53.
In echoes of the Republican agenda in the US, he has advocated loosening gun ownership laws in the hope it will allow innocent householders and shop owners to defend themselves from robbers and kidnappers.
He has also encouraged the police to shoot criminals, rather than arrest them, a policy which has echoes of President Duterte's war against drugs in the Philippines.
62,000 Brazilians Killed Annually
There were 62,000 murders last year and almost as many rapes, while many people in the big cities — Rio, Sao Paulo, Belem, Salvador, Belo Horizonte and Recife — suffer from muggings and drug-related crime.
In the favelas of Rio and Sao Paulo drug gangs appear to be in control and the two biggest gangs — the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) and the First Capital Command (PCC) — rule the roost in the nation's jails, leading to frequent riots.
Bolsonaro, with his army background, is expected to stamp down hard on criminals and drug gangs.
Many liberals fear he is airbrushing out the human rights abuses which took place under the US-backed military governments of the 1960s and 1970s but many older people remember it as a time of the "Brazilian Miracle", when the economy took off.
Average annual economic growth between 1969 and 1973 was 10 percent.
On the economy Bolsonaro is set to name Paulo Guedes as his finance minister and is thought to be offering him carte blanche to reform the Brazilian economy, which has been in the doldrums for almost a decade.
To give you an idea of how excited the international far-right is about a Bolsonaro presidency in Brazil, someone identifying themselves as Christopher Cantwell, the crying VICE nazi, emailed me this last night. #Eleiçoes2018 pic.twitter.com/grHTQDTHQW— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) 8 October 2018
Bolsonaro promised to privatize many major corporations and infrastructure companies and he is planning steep spending cuts as Brazil faces a deficit of US$39 billion.
On the campaign trail he promised to cut taxes in general and simplify the tax code and Guedes, who was trained at the University of Chicago, recently floated the idea of bringing in a bank fee.
Social Liberal by Name, Conservative by Nature
Despite his ultra-conservative agenda Bolsonaro leads the Social Liberal Party, a once irrelevant organization which has now become the second-largest force in the Brazilian congress.
Bolsonaro had hoped to gain more than 50 percent of the vote on Sunday, to avoid a second round on October 28, and some of his supporters protested outside the national electoral tribunal in Brasilia, claiming the Workers' Party had rigged the poll.
Interesting how #Bolsonaro & #Haddad face similar challenge ahead 2nd round #Brazil #PresidentialElection: moving to centre (from opposite sides spectrum) to win over undecided voters & other candidates' ones while keeping their core voters. Delicate balancing act for both— Irene Mia EIU (@IreneMia_EIU) 8 October 2018
"We expected to win in the first round. Now things are more difficult. The second round is a risk," said 77-year-old Lourdes Azevedo, a Bolsonaro supporter in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite being miles behind in the polls Haddad said the second round was "a golden opportunity," and he challenged Bolsonaro to a TV debate.
Haddad replaced Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as the Workers' Party candidate after the former president was disqualified by the supreme court because of his conviction for corruption.
Lula remains popular and many poorer Brazilians, who benefited from his policies between 2003 and 2010, are desperate for Haddad to win.
Benedito Tadeu, a Brazilian political analyst and professor, said he believed Haddad still had a very good chance of winning on October 28.
"Bolsonaro played all his cards in the first round as he is aware he will be exposed on the way to the second round and this will be negative for him. Bolsonaro has also achieved in this first round nearly all of his possible voters. The voters of Marina (Silva), (Henrique) Meirelles, and (Alvaro) Dias already switched to Bolsonaro in the first round which is why each one only obtained one percent of the vote," Prof. Tadeu told Sputnik.
"In order to win Haddad must take a step away from Lula, present his own social and economic plans, stay away from moralist positions and present himself as the candidate for national reconciliation, built upon a large alliance that includes the center and even the democratic right-wing. Haddad must also present his proposals on security," Prof. Tadeu told Sputnik.
He said Haddad could win if he could persuade those who voted for Ciro Gomes and Geraldo Alckmin — who got 12 percent and five percent respectively — to switch to him in the second round.