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Will Brazil’s Next President Be a Far-Right Nationalist?

Why Jair Bolsonaro Is Leading the Polls

Federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro, a pre-candidate for Brazil's presidential election, attends a debate at the Industry Confederation event in Brasilia, July 2018. Adriano Machado / REUTERS

With Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) now in jail for corruption and money laundering, the right-wing nationalist Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for the country’s presidential election in October. Bolsonaro, a retired army captain and member of the lower house of the Brazilian National Congress, is campaigning as an alternative for voters tired of the country’s corrupt traditional parties. Dozens of leading politicians have been under investigation, including Lula, who is campaigning for the presidency despite the fact that his conviction legally bars him from doing so.

Bolsonaro’s growth in popularity has been impressive. His poll numbers have risen from five percent in July 2016 to around 20 percent today. Only a few months ago, most experts regarded Bolsonaro as unelectable due to his radical positions, his record as an apologist for military dictatorship and torture, his offensive comments about Afro-Brazilians, gay

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