Brazil’s Bolsonaro suffers major setback in local elections

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has faced a massive setback after most of the candidates he backed in the municipal elections failed to win positions in the runoffs on Sunday.

More than 200 million Brazilians cast their ballots to choose around 5,500 mayors and 57,000 city councillors in the first elections since the far-right Brazilian President came to power in 2018. Brazil witnessed the crucial voting amid the ongoing efforts to contain the Coronavirus pandemic that resulted in the killing of more than 165,000 people in the country, which turned the South American country into a global virus hotspot.

Significantly, Bolsonaro championed dozens of candidates across the country, in addition to endorsing his allies in six state capitals across the country. However, four of them faced a categorical defeat. By backing these allies in as many municipalities as possible, Bolsonaro was aiming to boost his chances for re-election in 2022. This came after a number of governors and mayors imposed lockdowns in a bid to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus while opposing the Brazilian President in his strategy that downplayed the pandemic.

One of the most devastating defeats that the President suffered was in São Paulo-Brazil’s largest city, where incumbent Bruno Covas thrashed Bolsonaro’s pick, Celso Russomanno. They will now undergo a second round of face off on November 29. In other cities including Belo Horizonte, incumbent Alexandre Kalil defeated Bolsonaro’s 23-year-old candidate Bruno Engler by winning more than 63% of the vote. In the Amazon city of Manaus, Bolsonaro’s ally Alfredo Menezes finished fifth, while in Recife, Patrícia Domingos came fourth.

According to political analysts, Bolsonaro suffered a historic defeat with a new generation of left-wing politicians growing in power in Brazil’s local governance. Opinion polls also showed that dissatisfaction and rejection against the President have been surging among people in major cities across the country, particularly in the aftermath of his mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Bolsonaro, who has no party currently, seems even more vulnerable as voters are shifting to traditional parties such as the DEM (The Democrats) and the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB). Sunday’s municipal elections also witnessed massive abstention due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the country, which appears far from being under control.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian President on Monday hailed the municipal elections as a win for the “conservative wave” even as his hand-picked candidates faced massive defeats. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “The left-wing suffered a historic defeat in these elections, in a clear sign the conservative wave that arrived in 2018 is here to stay.”

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