BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro did not concede defeat on Tuesday in his first public comments since losing Sunday’s election, saying protests by his supporters were the result of “indignation and a sense of injustice” over a vote.
However, he stopped short of contesting the election result and authorized his chief of staff, Cerro Nogueira, to start the transition process with representatives of the elected leftist president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
It took Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist, more than 44 hours to comment after electoral authorities decided the election, with the delay raising fears he would seek to call into question the narrow result.
Amid his silence, his supporters blocked highways in protest of his defeat, and some called for a military coup to prevent former President Lula from returning to power.
Highway blockages have hampered fuel distribution, supermarket supplies and the flow of grain exports to major ports, according to industry groups. Read more
In his short national address, Bolsonaro joked that he would be missed by journalists, thanked those who voted for him and said he would abide by the constitution, which stipulates a January 1 transfer of power.
He said that “the current popular movements are the fruit of discontent and a sense of injustice at the way the electoral process was conducted.”
He said the protesters should avoid destroying property or “impeding the right to come and go,” but he did not order them to go home.
“Bolsonaro has not put out this fire. He has spoken to his hardline supporters without criticizing the protesters on the highways,” said Andre Cesar, political risk analyst at the Legislative Advisors Contract in Brasilia. He keeps mobilizing his most extreme followers.”
Karina Lorenda, 34, who took part in the highway demonstrations outside Sao Paulo, said she would continue to protest.
“Even if he asked for calm, not a response, we would still respond because we would not accept Lula’s government,” she said.
Bolsonaro’s chief of staff and Vice President Hamilton Mourao have begun making contact with Lula’s camp to discuss a move. Other allies, including the speaker of the House of Representatives, have since Sunday called on Bolsonaro’s government to respect the election result.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said it considered, by authorizing the government transition, that Bolsonaro was recognizing the election result.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro repeatedly made unfounded claims that the electoral system is open to fraud and accused electoral authorities of favoring his leftist opponent.
Bolsonaro did not directly repeat the allegations on Tuesday. But his reference to “injustice” in the electoral process showed he had learned from the post-presidency of US President Donald Trump, his ideological ally, according to Leonardo Barreto, a political analyst at Vector Consultancy in Brasilia.
Trump has continued to repeat false claims that the 2020 US election was “stolen” through widespread fraud and maintains an important core of supporters who believe him.
“He’s going to imitate Trump for the next four years to keep his conservative movement alive,” Barreto said, predicting the 2026 election would be a second match between Bolsonaro and Lula’s Labor Party.
Lula’s victory marks a stunning comeback for the 77-year-old former metal worker, who spent 19 months in prison for corruption before it was rescinded last year.
Lula has pledged to rescind many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including pro-arms measures and poor protections for the Amazon rainforest. His aides confirmed on Tuesday that he will attend the COP27 climate summit being held by the United Nations this month in Egypt.
The Workers’ Party announced, on Tuesday, that Lula’s deputy in the centrist elections, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alcumen, will coordinate the transition with the help of party leader Gliese Hoffman and former Education Minister Aloysio Mercadante.
Nogueira, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told reporters that the president had authorized him to begin the transition process with Alckmin as soon as his name was officially submitted on Thursday.
Additional reporting by Ricardo Brito, Marcela Ayres, Anthony Boudl in Brasilia, Brian Ellsworth, Nayara Figueiredo and Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brad Hines, Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien
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