Bolsonaro says Brazil polls a win for 'conservative wave'

Sao Paulo (AFP) –


Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday hailed Brazil's municipal elections as a win for the "conservative wave" unleashed by his own victory in 2018, despite a string of losses for his hand-picked candidates.

"The left-wing suffered a historic defeat in these elections, in a clear sign the conservative wave that arrived in 2018 is here to stay," Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter after Sunday's polls, the first since he upended Brazilian politics by storming to the presidency two years ago.

However, the elections were widely interpreted as a setback for Bolsonaro, given his candidates' lackluster results.

Of the 13 candidates the president endorsed for mayor, just two won in Sunday's first-round vote, with two more reaching the November 29 runoff.

Of the 45 city council candidates he backed, just nine were elected.

Bolsonaro, often dubbed the "Tropical Trump," downplayed his own involvement in the race.

"My help came down to four live videos (on Facebook) for a small handful of mayoral candidates," he wrote.

On Sunday, the president deleted a post from his Facebook page in which he had broadcast his support for his candidates, most of whom were defeated.

Bolsonaro's biggest setback came in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city and economic capital, where his candidate, TV presenter Celso Russomanno, finished a humiliating fourth place.

Left-wing candidate Guilherme Boulos meanwhile won a surprise pass to the second round, where he will face current Mayor Bruno Covas.

In Rio de Janeiro, the second-largest city, Bolsonaro's candidate was current Mayor Marcelo Crivella, an Evangelical pastor who narrowly survived the first round with 22 percent of the vote and faces an uphill battle to win his runoff with former mayor Eduardo Paes.

Unlike in 2018, when Bolsonaro rode a wave of popular anger with the political class to victory, the elections broadly reinforced more moderate candidates from traditional parties.

"The president is no longer the kingmaker he was in 2018, when his support was enough to get even unknown candidates elected," Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro State University, told AFP.