On Sunday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro launched his bid for re-election with a mass election campaign aimed at polishing his conservative credentials while introducing initiatives to female voters.
In front of thousands of supporters wearing the green and yellow Brazilian flag, the far-right leader took to the podium in Rio de Janeiro embracing his belief in God, family and freedom.
Today we have a president who believes in God. representing the army and police; ‘” said Bolsonaro, who was repeatedly interrupted by cheers me too – Legend – a fan often.
Despite a warm welcome in Rio, Bolsonaro faces an uphill battle ahead of elections in October. Many opinion polls put him between 10 and 15 percentage points behind his main challenger to the president, the former leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvaalthough the gap appears to be narrowing.
While Sunday’s event formalized his Liberal Party candidacy, Bolsonaro has been on his campaign trail for weeks. Earlier this month, he successfully passed a spending package through Congress that will increase monthly cash handouts to the poorest 50 percent of Brazil’s population by the end of the year.
The move is widely seen as an attempt to galvanize support in the country’s impoverished northeast region, which has 40 percent of voters, the vast majority of whom are in favor of Lula.
On Sunday, Bolsonaro told the crowd that the increased payments of 600 reais ($110) would continue into next year.
We are changing Brazil Bolsonaro, who was elected as an outsider in 2018, said he promised to clean up Brazil after a years-long corruption scandal.
Bolsonaro also used the event to focus on female voters – a demographic in which he tracks Lula by up to 25 percentage points. His overt masculinity and often misogynistic language are hated by many women. He once said, “I have five children. Four men and then, in a moment of weakness, the fifth came out a girl.”
After taking the stage, Bolsonaro quickly handed the microphone to his wife, Michelle, who praised her husband’s respect for women, claiming he had passed more laws protecting women than any other Brazilian president.
She also emphasized the importance of God in a message to the increasingly powerful Brazilian evangelical community.
The country’s last census was taken in 2010, but studies show that more than 30 percent of Brazilians are now evangelical and the community – which often takes a hard line on issues such as abortion and gay marriage – is growing rapidly.
Thomas Truman, a political analyst based in Rio, said this focus on conservative values — rather than building a grand tent coalition — is likely to be the hallmark of the president’s re-election campaign.
He will talk about women, he will talk about the poor, but he will undoubtedly talk about how all his opponents are in favor of abortion and the idea of good and evil. “He will be the one who represents the good,” Truman said.
Curbing a former army captain known for his often feisty language, Bolsonaro on Sunday restrained his attacks on Lula, claiming only that the leftist leader threatened Brazilians’ freedom with plans to regulate social and traditional media.
It also avoided further criticism of Brazil’s electronic voting system, which it has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, to be fraudulent. The White House was pushed last week to express its public support for the Brazilian electoral system after Bolsonaro repeated allegations of fraud to a group of foreign ambassadors.
Critics fear he is paving the way for an election if he loses.
Janet Motta, a nurse from Rio de Janeiro, said she attended the event out of respect for her country: “The left always destroys countries – look at Chile and Argentina. Bolsonaro represents freedom, faith and goodness for Brazil.”
Werley Ferreira, a 75-year-old native from the interior of Rio de Janeiro, said she left home at 4 a.m. to come to the launch party because she loves the president.
“He saved our pride in Brazil. He lifted our country.”
Additional reporting by Carolina Ingiza