The Stream

Brazil elections: Why are they so divisive?

We check in with a panel of Brazilian journalists to take the temperature ahead of crunch poll.

Brazil is heading to the polls on October 7 to vote in the first round of general elections that have generated polarising debate on the streets and online. Brazilians will cast their ballots for more than 1,600 positions, including the presidency. This is also the first election since the 2016 impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff. Voting is required by law, but a high abstention rate is nevertheless expected.

According to opinion polls released on Wednesday by Ibope the two leading candidates are Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) and Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT).

Evangelical former army captain Bolsonaro – a far right nationalist – is the early frontrunner. He has campaigned on promises that include a crackdown on crime and corruption. He has, though, been criticised for misogynistic comments against women, black people and the LGBTQ community. He has also proven a highly divisive candidate, with millions mobilising under #EleNao, or not him #NotHim hastags online. He was even stabbed at a campaign rally on September 9. On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to march in opposition to Bolsonaro with his supporters planning counter-demonstrations on Sunday.

Main rival Haddad is from the same party as jailed former president Lula de Silva. He is the former minister of education and mayor of Sao Paulo. Under his watch as education minister, places for lower-income students were greatly expanded, though he is still widely seen as a symbol of the establishment.

The debate has been fiery online and WhatsApp has been a major tool of that. The messaging app is used by more than half of Brazil’s population of 210 million and viral fake news and misinformation has been spreading like wildfire on it during the campaign. In an effort to fight the stories, 24 media organisations have joined forces under the name Comprova, or Prove It to investigate stories that go viral.

On Monday we’ll speak to Brazilian journalists and explore how they are covering the candidates, the campaign promises and what the biggest headlines have been so far. Join the conversation. 

On this episode of The Stream, we speak to:​

Raquel Krähenbühl @Rkrahenbuhl
Washington Correspondent @GloboNews

Raphael Tsavkko Garcia @tsavkko_intl
Journalist, The Angry Brazilian

Mauricio Savarese @msavarese 
Brazil Correspondent, Associated Press

Read more:

Brazil elections: A tight and turbulent race – Al Jazeera
Brazil’s WhatsApp election campaign – Christian Science Monitor 

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