Far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro has been elected new President of Brazil, vowing to change the future and fortunes of Latin America’s largest economy.
Bolsonaro, who was stabbed while campaigning in early September, seems to have capitalized on the sympathy the incident generated and the voters’ deep anger with corruption, crime and economic hardship.
He received 55% of votes in the presidential runoff, with his leftist opponent Fernando Haddad garnering 44.87%.
Sixty three-years-old Bolsonaro, who has been present in Brazil’s politics for more than two decades, will take office on January 1.
“We will change Brazil’s destiny together,” he said in his victory speech broadcast on Facebook. “We cannot continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and the extremism of the left.”
The polls came on the heels of Brazil’s worst-ever recession, a shocking multi-billion-dollar Petrobras corruption scandal and the rising rate of homicides in urban neighborhoods.
Putting Brazil back on the path to recovery is not easy for Bolsonaro, as he has no previous experience in administration. But the President-elect has pledged to cut the number of ministries from 28 to about 15.
In addition, he has promised a string of market-friendly reforms to speed up the economic recovery.
He has also vowed to reform the country’s money-guzzling pension system, but analysts are skeptical about it, saying it is easier said than done.
Almost two decades of socialist policies have left Brazil neck-deep in debt. The country may plunge into a full-blown crisis if tax revenue isn’t raised and social welfare programs spending isn’t cut, economists warn.
Brazil spends US$100 billion every year on debt interest payments, according to reports.