Women honored in Brazil’s first presidential debate

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s presidential candidates squared off in their first debate — the contests being overshadowed by questions about President Jair Bolsonaro’s treatment of women, which could be crucial to his chances.

Sunday night’s debate became something of a pile-up after Bolsonaro lashed out at a journalist, Vera Magalhães, who asked if the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines had been affected by misinformation spread by people, including the president. He falsely claimed that the vaccine accelerated the development of AIDS and warned of potentially life-changing side effects.

“Vera, I couldn’t expect anything else from you. You sleep thinking about me, you have some kind of passion for me,” Bolsonaro said, then accused her of taking sides and lying. “You are a disgrace to Brazilian journalism! »

Candidate Soraya Thronicke, who won a Senate seat in 2018 with Bolsonaro’s backing, said she was “extremely upset” by her comments to Magalhães, calling them an example of a man being “a kitty with other men and coming to us (women) like a big tiger.

Other candidates, including former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Ciro Gomes, expressed their solidarity with the journalist as the question distracted from the confrontation between the undisputed leaders, da Silva and Bolsonaro. Polls indicate they are likely to lead the first round on October 2 and enter a second round.

Senator Simone Tebet – whom Bolsonaro also called “an embarrassment to the Senate” – said he was disrespecting women with his attacks, then asked directly: “Why so much anger against women?

Bolsonaro’s aggressiveness tends to resonate with his die-hard supporters, but alienates undecided voters, according to Mário Sérgio Lima, senior political analyst at Medley Global Advisors in Sao Paulo.

“He lost his temper with a female journalist, pointing out his Achilles heel, which is his high rejection among women,” Lima said. “It’s very hard to change in a campaign when he can’t hide his contempt for women in general, and they make up more than half of the voters.”

According to a recent survey by pollster Datafolha, 47% of women polled intend to vote for da Silva and 29% for Bolsonaro. The poll of 5,744 people found that 29% of women could still change their vote. He had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

Bolsonaro said his opponents were launching a “cheap attack” and defended his government’s record of helping women.

“Enough with the victimization; we are all the same,” he said. “I have sanctioned more than 60 laws to defend women. And I am sure that a large number of Brazilian women love me because I defend the family and oppose the liberation of drugs.”

These last two positions are part of the conservative rhetoric that helped Bolsonaro win in 2018, along with calls to God, country and fierce resistance to the threat of socialism.

Da Silva had been the favorite in this race until his money laundering and corruption convictions took him out of the race and paved the way for Bolsonaro’s victory. The Supreme Court later overturned his convictions, ruling that the judge – who later became Bolsonaro’s justice minister – had been biased.

The Associated Press asked the government last month to detail the dozens of measures Bolsonaro says his administration has adopted to benefit women, but did not receive a response.

Independent political analyst Thomas Traumann wrote in a report on Monday that Bolsonaro’s “attacks on the senator and the journalist will cost him dearly.” Bolsonaro had tried to use his wife Michelle to improve his appeal to female voters. the window.”

Traumann added that Tebet was the “headliner” of the debate, saying she “systematically attacked Bolsonaro on all fronts and also provided consistent responses.”

Bolsonaro has focused his attention on da Silva, who is universally known as Lula and is leading all major polls to return to the job he held from 2003 to 2010. He has repeatedly called the former president a leftist of “ex-con” and questioned da Silva on the impact of extensive corruption on state oil company Petrobras.

“Your government was the most corrupt in the history of Brazil,” Bolsonaro said in the heated first exchange.

The former president responded with a list of anti-corruption measures introduced by his government, including the creation of a database for transparency in public spending and laws against corruption, organized crime and money laundering. . And he pointed to vast improvements in education and the fight against deforestation during his tenure.

Da Silva also reiterated that his now overturned convictions were politically motivated to benefit Bolsonaro.

“Bolsonaro knows the reasons why I was imprisoned: … so that he could be elected president of the republic,” he said. “I’m much cleaner than him or any relative of his.”

After the debate, Bolsonaro left the stage while others stayed to chat and shake hands.

___ AP journalist Mauricio Savarese contributed from Sao Paulo

Comments are closed.