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Press review Swiss media alarmed by Bolsonaro victory in Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro won the presidential election in Brazil.

(Fernando Bizerra/Keystone)

Swiss media reported the ballot box victory of Jair Bolsonaro with the same apprehensive tone that has characterised its coverage of elections in Brazil. The far-right candidate won 55.7% of the vote in Sunday’s second-round poll.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) fears the worst should the new president fulfil his campaign promises.

“It is not the cure for the Brazilian disease,” read the title of an opinion piece published in the Monday edition of the Zurich-based newspaper. “If [Bolsonaro] turns his rhetoric into action, the country will have very difficult times ahead.”

The article notes that extreme popular dissatisfaction with corruption, which transcends party lines, coupled with the deepest recession in the country’s recent history has led to a scenario of high polarization, capping a period of political deal-making that has ensured governability since the end of the military dictatorship (1985).

With the implosion of central political forces, the NZZ continues, it remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro will maintain a confrontational stance, or whether he will reach out to more traditional conservative parties and politicians. In any case, the article concludes, the general climate is one of fear for the future of the fragile Brazilian democracy.

‘Playing with fire’ 

The Tages-Anzeiger took a similar stance to the NZZ. “Electing Bolsonaro is playing with fire,” warns one headline.

Echoing the NZZ, an opinion article in the Basler Zeitung makes note of the mediocre parliamentary career of Bolsonaro, saying the new president was projected on the national stage due to his homophobic, misogynist, racist, pro-torture and military dictatorship views.

“But that does not mean that most Brazilians want an authoritarian system or the return of the dictatorship,” read the NZZ article

If the reasons for his popularity seems self-evident, the commentator raises questions about the new president’s real government project, given the contradictory remarks made during his campaign.

The newspaper explains that his economic guru, Paulo Guedes, defends the complete privatization of assets and even state functions, such as education and health.

The French-language Swiss newspaper Le Matin notes the far-right government of Bolsonaro “will change the country’s economic model” with a significant privatization program and tighter controls on public spending.

It points to the remarks Guedes made at a press conference in Rio de Janeiro during which he slammed the Brazilian model of “uncontrolled, expanding public spending”.

“We are prisoners of low growth. We have very high taxes, we have high interest rates, we have snowballing debt,” he said. “It has made Brazil poor.”

Government program is still a mystery

 But Bolsonaro has contradicted his advisor a few times, saying he was against the privatization of national security companies, for example. Such contradictions reflect the disparity of ideas within the Bolsonaro team, which brings together ultra-liberal economists and nationalist military ideologues.

Reflecting this sense of confusion, Swiss public television, SRF, asks “Which Bolsonaro will govern?”. The one who promised to “machine-gun opponents”, or the one who in a victory speech, which was staged as a religious cult with a Bible at hand, vowed to uphold the constitution?

The SRF correspondent in Rio de Janeiro writes: “For Jair Bolsonaro, political opponents are not opposition, they are enemies. And several of his followers understand this to the letter. (...) Suddenly things that were normal a month ago have become brave acts, like two men holding hands, or wearing a red T-shirt. In recent weeks, more than 50 Bolsonaro supporters’ attacks on leftists and minorities have been recorded.”

The journalist recalls that Britain’s The Economist called his victory a “tragedy” and that even the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from his extremely “disagreeable ideas”.

Even though a large majority of Brazilian voters residing in Switzerland voted for Bolsonaro (62%), none of the Swiss media from left to right rejoiced at the news.


Translated from Portuguese by Dominique Soguel, swissinfo.ch

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