Center-right camp is getting stronger: Bolsonaro has to accept election defeat


With his trivialization of the corona pandemic, Brazil’s President Bolsonaro is not making himself popular everywhere. Now his camp has also suffered a defeat in the local elections. But the tide could turn quickly.
In the second round of local elections in Brazil, the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro suffered a major defeat. 11 of the 13 candidates supported by the head of state lost the race – including that for the mayor’s office in Rio de Janeiro. As in the first ballot two weeks ago, traditional right-wing and conservative parties emerged victorious.

In Rio, Eduardo Paes from the center-right PSDB party won with more than 64 percent against the unpopular mayor of the metropolis, Marcelo Crivella. Paes was Mayor of Rio from 2008 to 2016. Crivella, a former evangelical pastor, was supported by Bolsonaro. The president’s candidate also lost in the city of Fortaleza in the northeast of the South American country.

In São Paulo, the richest city in the country, the PSDB mayor Bruno Covas was able to defend his office with almost 60 percent. Inferior to him was the bearer of hope of the left-wing party PSOL. The 40-year-old Covas was backed by São Paulo’s governor João Doria, who is expected to face Bolsonaro in the presidential election in two years’ time.

Popular despite defeat

Overall, the local elections were a huge disappointment for the once powerful left. For the first time since 1985, the long ruling PT Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva failed to win a single capital of the 26 states. Around 38 million Brazilians – a quarter of the voters – were asked to elect mayors and city councils in 57 cities for four years.

The local elections were the first vote since Bolsonaro took office. The president is still popular with approval ratings of more than 40 percent in recent polls. Recently, however, he saw himself exposed to sharp criticism, also because of his handling of the corona pandemic, which he had repeatedly referred to as “minor flu”. Brazil has the second highest death rate worldwide with more than 172,000 registered corona deaths.

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