The people of Brazil have elected a new president after a highly controversial and polarizing campaign between rival candidates. Jair Bolsonaro is now the President-elect and, though a divisive figure on many fronts, he is a staunch pro-life advocate and a champion of conservative policy.

The electorate cast 55.2% votes in favor of Bolsonaro and 44.8% in favor of Fernando Haddad, leader of the left-wing Workers’ Party. A strong conservative and former army captain, this month Bolsonaro pledged to protect the unborn at all costs in an agreement with Brazilian Cardinal Orani Tempesta. “We are signing a commitment defending the family, defending the innocence of children in the schools, defending the freedom of religion, against abortion and the legalization of drugs,” the President-elect said at the time, according to LifeSite News.

He also recently stated that “the money of Brazilians will not finance NGOs that promote [abortion].”

The current Brazilian abortion laws allow for the termination of pregnancy in just a few exceptional circumstances; in cases of rape, when there is a clear risk to the mother’s health or when the baby’s brain is seriously deformed.

Bolsonaro, 63, leads the Social Liberal Party (PSL), which is known to be an anti-establishment group that seeks to employ social conservatism mixed with pro-market policies. As such, and due to his strong emphasis on law and order and Brazilian nationalism, the President-elect has been dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics.” 

More interestingly, however, the shock election result speaks of a massive shift to the right after hard leftists claimed the last four elections. But the left has not allowed Bolsonaro rise to prominence without relentless and fierce attempts to hold him back by any means possible. He has been subject to intense criticism in the media, and was even physically attacked at a campaign rally last year when a left-wing extremist plunged a knife into his abdomen, causing him to lose 40% of his blood. The President-elect required emergency surgery, but received widespread support for continuing on with his campaign despite being confined to his hospital bed, taking to social media instead making speeches on the campaign trail.

Brazil, a historically Catholic nation, has always maintained a staunch pro-life ethic, despite numerous attempts from the left to legalize terminations in a wider range of circumstances. The rival candidate, Fernando Haddad, said he was “personally against abortion,” but has also indicated his desire to see the laws become more liberal. Thus, most believed him to be a pro-choice candidate, and he enjoyed huge swathes of liberal support. However, when Haddad was recently administered communion by a priest, the Roman Catholic community was outraged. The priest in turn responded with Pope Francis’ infamous phrase: “Who am I to judge?” 

But this was not enough for the millions of by-the-book Catholics who are sickened by any notion of support for the “grave sin” of abortive procedures. Indeed, according to Catholic canon law, those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

There is little doubt that religion played an enormous part in Bolsonaro’s stunning victory, with around 60% of Brazilians still being self-declared Catholics. However, surveys indicate that this number is changing rapidly as culture becomes increasingly secularized. According to Harvard Divinity School, the number of Roman Catholics “has fallen steadily from 95% of the population in 1940 to approximately two-thirds in 2009.”

Bolsonaro is also an enthusiastic supporter of the state of Israel, another trait shared with his US counterpart. Following in Trump’s footsteps, he has considered moving the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As for the presence of the Palestinian embassy in Brazil, the President-elect remarked, “Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here.” He has also promised that his first foreign trip will be to Israel. 

Following his win, Bolsonaro simply tweeted “Thanks for the support! Let’s go together and change Brazil!” In his televised victory speech, he declared that his chief aim was to “transform Brazil into a great, free and prosperous nation.”

“You will be certain that we will work night and day for it,” he added. The new President’s motto is: “Brazil Above Everything, God Above Everyone.” He will take office officially on January 1, 2019.

Date published: 31/10/2018
Written by: Will Maule
Feature image: President Jair Bolsonaro
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