A vocal LGBTI rights opponent won the first round of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday.Jair Bolsonaro, a congressman from Rio de Janeiro, won with 46 percent of the vote. Former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad finished second with 29 percent of the vote. The two men will face each other in the second round of voting on Oct. 28.
Brazilians cast their ballots in what will probably be remembered as the most polarized election in the country to date with leftist voters facing a choice between a handful of candidates who they felt would support much needed social advances. Observers have noted Bolsonaro, on the other hand, was the perfect candidate for this year’s political climate in the country.
The far-right militaristic, homophobic and misogynistic candidate represents the voice of every voter who was looking to shake-up the political class after 16 years of leftist governments under Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached in 2016.
The feeling right now in Brazil is one of fear.
People of color, women and LGBTI people organized themselves and marched against Bolsonaro in several cities and state capitals throughout the country right before Sunday’s vote.
Organizers sought to give these underrepresented groups who Bolsonaro has openly targeted a sense of belonging and unity, but this hope didn’t go very far as cases of intimidation and violence started to take place in São Paulo, where LGBTI people had already reported being assaulted by Bolsonaro supporters, and in other cities. People in São Paulo’s subway, for example, were chanting, “homos be careful. Bolsonaro will kill all faggots” before a soccer game.
As the presidential election heads into the second round with Bolsonaro going against Haddad, who is backed by Lula, many Brazilians have resigned themselves to having a far-right government run the country over the next four years.
Ciro Gomes was the last hope for many Brazilian leftists and especially for LGBTI people in the country since polls indicated he was the only candidate who could beat Bolsonaro in the second round.
The platforms of Gomes and Haddad both had proposals to protect LGBTI Brazilians, which included making homophobia a crime. Gomes only received 12 percent of the vote and has already endorsed Haddad in the second round.
But will it be enough?
Mathematically speaking, the candidates who lost the first round received enough votes to allow Haddad to become president. Observers note many voters are afraid of what Lula and leftists represent right now in the country and Bolsonaro has effectively tapped into it: Blaming women who shouldn`t earn the same salary as men because they get pregnant, gay people who will teach boys to be gay and people of color who don`t like to work for a living.
Observers note Bolsonaro’s supporters came out in force and forgot the inflammatory things he had previously said about minority groups going along with the will of the majority. Bolsonaro has also repeatedly said he is the change for which Brazilians have been waiting in this current political climate.
Most LGBTI Brazilians feel the election will have a direct impact on their lives remain hopeful that Haddad can move more to the center and focus his campaign in a way that shows he supports leftist social and more centrist economic policies. This compromise may be the price he has to pay to defeat a candidate even the right-wing has called a fascist.