BRASILIA/SAO PAULO, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday did not concede defeat in his first public statements since Sunday’s election loss, saying his supporters’ protests were the fruit of “outrage and a feeling of injustice” about the vote.
However, he refrained from contesting the election result and authorized his chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, to start the transition process with representatives of left-wing President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist, took more than 44 hours to comment after the election was decided by electoral authorities, with the delay raising fears he was trying to cast doubt on the close result.
Amid his silence, supporters blocked highways to protest his defeat and some called for a military coup to prevent former President Lula from returning to power.
The highway blockades have disrupted fuel distribution, supermarket supplies and the flow of grain exports to major ports, according to industry groups. Continue reading
In his short national speech, Bolsonaro joked that journalists would miss him, thanked those who voted for him and said he would abide by the constitution, which calls for a January 1 transfer of power.
“The current popular movements are the fruit of outrage and a sense of injustice at the way the electoral process took place,” he said.
He said protesters should avoid destroying property or “interfering with the right to come and go” but did not urge them to go home.
“Bolsonaro didn’t put out that fire. He has spoken to his hardcore supporters without criticizing the protesters on the highways,” said Andre Cesar, political risk analyst at Hold Legislative Advisors in Brasilia. “He keeps his more extremist supporters mobilized.”
Karina Laurinda, 34, who attended highway demonstrations outside of Sao Paulo, said she will continue to protest.
“Even if he says to calm down, not to react, we will still react because we will not accept a Lula government,” she said.
Bolsonaro’s chief of staff and Vice President Hamilton Mourao have begun contacting the Lula camp to discuss a transition. Other allies, including the speaker of the lower house of Congress, have been urging the Bolsonaro government to respect the election result since Sunday.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said it believed that by authorizing the change of government, Bolsonaro was acknowledging the result of the election.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro made repeated unfounded claims that the electoral system was open to fraud and accused the electoral authorities of favoring his left-wing opponent.
Bolsonaro did not directly reiterate those claims on Tuesday. But his reference to “injustice” in the electoral process shows he learned from the post-presidency of US President Donald Trump, his ideological ally, according to Leonardo Barreto, a policy analyst at Vector Consultancy in Brasilia.
Trump has continued to repeat false claims that the 2020 US election was “stolen” through widespread fraud and retains a significant core of supporters who believe them.
“He’s going to copy Trump for the next four years to keep his conservative movement alive,” Barreto said, predicting the 2026 election would be a rematch between Bolsonaro and Lula’s Labor Party.
Lula’s win marks a stunning comeback for the 77-year-old former metalworker, who spent 19 months in prison on corruption convictions before they were overturned last year.
Lula has vowed to overturn many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including gun-friendly measures and weak protection of the Amazon rainforest. His staff confirmed on Tuesday that he would attend the United Nations COP27 climate summit in Egypt later this month.
Lula’s centrist running mate, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, will coordinate the transition, the Workers Party said on Tuesday, with the help of party leader Gleisi Hoffmann and former education minister Aloizio Mercadante.
Nogueira, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told journalists the president had authorized him to start the transition process with Alckmin once his name was formally filed on Thursday.
Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Marcela Ayres and Anthony Boadle; Edited by Brad Haynes, Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien
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