One of the most bizarre and violent democratic elections in recent world history concluded today in Brazil with the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a candidate who has been a lightning rod for controvery due to his inflammatory rhetoric, and who missed several weeks of campaigning after he suffered a life-threatening stab wound while on the campaign trail earlier this year.
What's the background?
Brazil has been plagued recently by a prolonged economic recession, worsening crime (particularly in urban areas), and widespread governmental corruption that has rocked the country's faith in its institutions.
The political situation in Brazil grew so dire this year that for a considerable portion of the race, the leading candidate in the polls — former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva — was literally in jail serving a sentence for political corruption charges.
Eventually, however, Brazilian courts ruled that da Silva was ineligible to run, which made the controversial Bolsonaro the front runner.
Bolsonaro was perceived as an outsider controversy and was widely criticized for making derogatory remarks about — among other groups — black and gay people. For example, Bolsonaro stated that he would rather see a member of his family "die in an accident" than for one of them to be gay. He also said in 2011 that he knew that none of his children would end up dating a black woman because his children were "well raised."
Among a litany of other offensive comments, he was widely criticized for publicly telling a woman that "I wouldn't rape you because you don't deserve it" because she was ugly.
Bolsonaro was attacked at a public campaign event on September 6th by a knife-wielding man who said he was "on a mission from God." Bolsonaro was severely wounded in the attack and was said to be "almost dead." He spent several weeks absent from the campaign trail recuperating, and most political observers in Brazil believe that the stabbing may have increased Bolsonaro's support and sympathy among the Brazilian people.
What happened in the election?
Bolsonaro won a plurality in the first round of balloting earlier this month, but did not get 50% support. Accordingly, he was forced into a runoff against the second-place candidate, former Sao Paolo mayor Fernando Haddad. Haddad is generally considered to have been a "far-left candidate."
Despite significant worldwide condemnation of Bolsonaro due to his controversial remarks, Bolsonaro appears to have scored a relatively easy victory on Sunday. With 99% of the votes counted, Reuters reported that Bolsonaro led Haddad by a comfortable 55-45 margin.
The government is expected to make an official announcement about the election results in a press conference later tonight.