Jair Bolsonaro reacts at the national convention of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 22 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Jair Bolsonaro reacts at the national convention of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 22 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Rio de Janeiro — Controversial extreme-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro is expected to formalise his candidacy later on Sunday for Brazil’s October presidential elections, boosted by strong social media support and polls that show him headed to a second round.

Less than three months from a race whose outcome is uncertain, the former army officer who professes nostalgia for the country’s military dictatorship, is firmly rejected by part of the population sickened by his racist, misogynistic and homophobic insults.

Others see him as a savior of the country undermined by repeated corruption scandals.

Bolsonaro, 63, plans to rally supporters in his Rio de Janeiro stronghold and is expected to officially become the Social Liberal Party (PSL) candidate.

He rejoined PSL in March after many switches during his political career.

"I have people who support me throughout Brazil. Some of them even like me," he said Thursday in Goiania city, where he reiterated his promise to loosen Brazil’s tight gun ownership restrictions to allow self-defence.

Fans know him as 'the myth', and part of his appeal lies simply in the fact that he is one of the country’s rare well-known political figures untainted by corruption accusations

As he often does, he triggered controversy, this time by provoking a young girl to make the shape of a gun with her fingers.

A late June poll placed Bolsonaro on top with 17% of intended votes in the first round, in the absence of former leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been in prison on a corruption conviction since April and whose candidacy will likely be blocked.

Black ecologist Marina Silva polled second place at 13%, in a field where Brazil’s more than 30 parties have until mid-August to name candidates.

Pollsters do not see Bolsonaro winning a second round.

Fans know him as "the myth," and part of his appeal lies simply in the fact that he is one of the country’s rare well-known political figures not to be tainted by corruption accusations.

But with his provocative style, several of his vice-presidential picks have rejected him.

The latest was Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, former head of a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, whose party refused to align with the PSL.

Now, Bolsonaro could go with Janaina Paschoal, who was a lead lawyer for the case to strip Lula’s successor Dilma Rousseff of the presidency in 2016.

"I have the feeling that she feels like helping to transform Brazil. We are trying to woo her by telephone," he told O Globo newspaper on Friday.

Without allying with a big party, the veteran Congressman would only have eight seconds of air time for his television campaign ads, which are allotted according to a coalition’s strength in parliament.

It’s something to feed his strategy of rejecting traditional media, which Bolsonaro accuses of spreading false information, and to bet more on social media including his Facebook account with more than five million followers.

AFP

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