Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro broke a two-day silence after his election defeat, saying protests by his supporters reflected “outrage” at the result, but pledging to respect the country’s constitution.
After 45 hours of self-imposed silence out of public view, the far-right leader read out a carefully crafted speech on Tuesday afternoon that did not directly challenge his leftist rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s narrow victory on Sunday. , as some opponents had feared. .
Pro-Bolsonaro protesters and truckers who say their candidate was unfairly denied victory have blocked hundreds of highways across the South American nation, sparking fears of food shortages and prompting threats of a crackdown by the Supreme Court of the country.
“The popular movements at the moment are the result of outrage and a sense of injustice at the way the electoral process has unfolded,” Bolsonaro said in a brief speech from the Palácio da Alvorada, the official presidential residence in Brasilia, alluding to earlier allegations that the Brazilian president’s electoral body had been biased against his campaign.
“Peaceful demonstrations are always welcome but our methods cannot be those of the left, which has always harmed the population,” he added.
While the president did not explicitly concede defeat or mention Lula, his chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, immediately confirmed that Bolsonaro had cleared him to begin the transition process with Lula’s team taking office. January 1st.
“As president of the republic and a citizen, I will continue to fulfill all the commandments of our constitution,” Bolsonaro said.
Breaking with tradition, the former army captain did not call to congratulate Lula, who narrowly won the second round with 50.9% of the vote against 49.1% for Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro’s remarks ended two days of silence after the vote, which had left Brazilians and investors alike wondering what the mercurial incumbent might do next.
But it was still unclear if Bolsonaro supporters would stop their protests. Calls for more protests on Wednesday were circulating on social media sympathetic to the president.
As the capital Brasília remained quiet on Tuesday, governors of five states, including the three most populous – São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais – ordered military police to reopen highways blocked by militants amid accusations that the highway police had failed to clear the roads.
For months before the election, Bolsonaro worked to cast doubt on the integrity of the race, saying Brazil’s electronic voting system was prone to fraud.
Brazil’s top electoral official, Alexandre de Moraes, threatened the traffic police chief with a fine and imprisonment if he did not ensure the roads were cleared, and called the protesters an “illegal movement ” and “risk to national security”.
Bolsonaro said Sunday’s result showed that “the right has truly emerged in our country. Our strong representation in Congress shows the strength of our values: God, country, family and freedom.
“Bolsonaro is well placed to be the leader of the opposition, perhaps even to attempt a comeback in four years. But for that to happen, he has to move on,” said Eduardo Mello, professor of politics at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
Ignoring Bolsonaro’s protests and refusal to acknowledge victory, Lula has already taken on the role of president-elect, receiving congratulatory calls from world leaders and meeting with politicians to discuss his cabinet picks and top government priorities.
A former president who served two terms between 2003 and 2010, the 77-year-old will rule a deeply divided nation. Millions of Brazilians remain unhappy with the corruption scandals that have tarnished successive administrations of his Workers’ Party (PT). Lula himself spent almost two years in prison for corruption before his convictions were overturned.
Much of the focus is on who Lula will choose as his ministers. Investors hope he will signal his commitment to fiscal rectitude and economic orthodoxy by appointing a finance minister who enjoys the confidence of the markets, although Lula has insisted he will choose a politician over a technocrat.
In the running for the role are PT loyalists such as Fernando Haddad, who lost the Sao Paulo governorship on Sunday to pro-Bolsonaro Tarcísio de Freitas, and Alexandre Padilha, a former health minister.
“In his victory speech, Lula said all the right things with his ‘we want to govern for everyone’ approach. But economically, the main signal will be his choice of finance minister,” said Marcos Casarin, chief economist for Latin America at Oxford Economics.
The president-elect is expected to increase the total number of ministries from 23 to 34, giving him more leeway to reward his coalition partners with government jobs.
Video: Brazil: A Nation Divided | FT Movie
. Jair Bolsonaro promises follow Brazilian constitution without concede the elections