Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro does not give in, but in his speech signals cooperation with the transfer of power
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he would “continue to fulfill all the commandments of our constitution” in a brief speech at Brazil’s presidential palace, after days of silence. election defeat to the former leader of the left, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
He did not openly admit defeat, although the event seemed to signal his intention to cooperate with the transfer of power.
Following the president to the podium, Chief of Staff Ciro Nogueira said he would work with the new government and wait for Lula da Silva’s transition team to begin the handover.
“President Jair Mesía Bolsonaro has authorized me, when the time is right, to start the transition process based on the law,” Nogueira said.
It is noteworthy that Bolsonaro’s brief message did not dispute the result of the vote. Instead, he thanked those who voted for him and hit back at critics. “I have always been called undemocratic and, unlike my accusers, I have always played by the four lines of the constitution,” he said.
He did not congratulate Lula da Silva, who won with 50.9% of the vote, while Bolsonaro got 49.1% of the vote.
The president-elect won the most votes in Brazil’s history with more than 60 million votes, surpassing his 2006 record by almost two million votes, according to final figures from the electoral body.
Hear what Lula had to say after narrowly beating Bolsonaro
Bolsonaro’s initial silence fueled fears that he would not cooperate with the transfer of power after making unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud before the vote.
Although his speech on Tuesday was brief, experts speculated as to why he refrained from openly conceding or challenging the election results.
“Bolsonaro wants to maintain this illusion that he was wronged and that’s why he lost. He wants to show strength, and in the culture of this movement to admit you’ve lost is to show weakness,” Americas Quarterly editor-in-chief Brian Winter told CNN.
“By saying he’s going to respect the Constitution and by discouraging violence at some of the protests, I think that (Bolsonaro) is essentially now paving the way for a relatively normal transition,” Winter said.
Bruna Santos, a senior adviser at the Wilson Institute’s Brazil Center, said Bolsonaro may be thinking about the long-term future of his movement.
“Bolsonarism is a strong opposition force and has become even stronger after this election despite Bolsonaro’s loss,” he said.
In the last legislative election, Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party increased its representatives in the lower house from 76 to 99, while it doubled from seven to 14 in the Senate. Although Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party also increased representation in both chambers, conservative-leaning politicians will generally dominate the next legislature.
Brazilian lawmakers and some Bolsonaro allies have already recognized Lula da Silva’s victory. Brazil’s Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco publicly congratulated Lula da Silva and his supporters, as did Chamber of Deputies President Arthur Lira, a close Bolsonaro ally.
Some pro-Bolsonaro Telegram groups appeared to be emboldened by Bolsonaro’s speech, which described the ongoing protests as “the result of frustration and a sense of injustice over the way the electoral process was conducted.”
CNN saw messages from supporters praising Bolsonaro for not accepting defeat and green-lighting protests.
“He did not recognize the defeat. He did not greet his opponent. He reaffirmed his respect for the Constitution. Let’s take to the streets, more than ever, safe and confident.” one user wrote:
Protesters have wreaked havoc on the country’s highways since Sunday. Brazil’s highway police said Tuesday morning that protesters blocked roads at 267 points across the country.
The highway police agency itself has come under fire within Brazil for its response, after videos circulating on Brazilian social media showed officers telling protesters they would not disrupt or shut down their protests.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Highway Police Executive Director Marco Antonio de Barros defended his agency’s actions, saying clearing the roads was a “complicated operation.”
“Groups of up to 500 protestors are participating: children in their arms, elderly people. So the PRF had to proceed with great care,” he said, using the acronym for the highways agency.
Highway Patrol Superintendent Wendell Matos added that the agency does not support protests or federal highway closures, and that potential violations of protocol are being investigated. “Sometimes two or three officers speak or act in ways that are inconsistent with our orders. We are investigating whether there were any violations by these officers,” Matos said.
Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court after Bolsonaro’s speech said that it is important to emphasize “the speech of the President of the Republic regarding guaranteeing the right to come and go in relation to the blockades, and when deciding the beginning of the transition, to recognize the results of the elections”.
President-elect Lula da Silva has not commented on the protests, although on Sunday night he expressed disappointment at Bolsonaro’s initial concession.
Glacey Hoffman, leader of Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party, said Tuesday the party was confident the protests would not derail the eventual transfer of power. “We trust Brazilian institutions,” he said.
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