BRASILIA/SAO PAULO, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday did not concede defeat in his first public statements since losing an election on Sunday, saying his supporters’ protests were the result of “bitterness and a sense of injustice” over vote.
However, he did not dispute the election result and authorized his chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, to begin the transition process with representatives of newly elected leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist, took more than 44 hours to comment after election officials decided the election, with the delay raising fears he would try to cast doubt on the narrow result.
Amid his silence, supporters blocked highways to protest his defeat, with some calling for a military coup to prevent former president Lula from returning to power.
Highway blockades have disrupted fuel distribution, supermarket supplies and grain exports at major ports, according to industry groups. read more
In his brief national address, Bolsonaro joked that journalists would miss him, thanked those who voted for him and said he would respect the constitution, which calls for a transition of power on January 1.
“The current popular movements are the result of resentment and a sense of injustice about the way the electoral process was conducted,” he said.
He said protesters should avoid destroying property or “obstructing the right to come and go,” but stopped short of telling them to go home.
“Bolsonaro did not put out this fire. He spoke to his hardline supporters without criticizing the protesters on the highways,” said political risk analyst Andre Cesar at Hold Legislative Advisors in Brasilia. “He keeps his more extreme followers mobilized.”
Carina Laurinda, 34, who took part in the demonstration on the highway outside Sao Paulo, said she would continue to protest.
“Even if he says to calm down, not to react, we will still react because we will not accept a Lula government,” she said.
Bolsonaro’s chief of staff and Vice President Hamilton Murao began reaching out to the Lula camp to discuss the transition. Other allies, including the speaker of the lower house of Congress, have called on Bolsonaro’s government since Sunday to respect the election result.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said it considered that, by authorizing the government transition, Bolsonaro recognized the election result.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro repeatedly made baseless claims that the electoral system was open to fraud and accused election officials of favoring his leftist opponent.
Bolsonaro did not directly repeat those claims 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 Brazil.
Trump has continued to repeat false claims that the 2020 US election was “stolen” by widespread fraud and that he retains a significant core of supporters who believe them.
“He will copy Trump for the next four years to keep his conservative movement alive,” Barreto said, predicting the 2026 election to be a rematch between Bolsonaro and Lula’s Workers’ Party.
Lula’s victory marks a stunning comeback for the 77-year-old former metal worker, who spent 19 months in prison on corruption convictions before they were overturned last year.
Lula has vowed to roll back many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including gun measures and lax protection of the Amazon rainforest. His aides confirmed on Tuesday that he will attend this month’s COP27 United Nations climate summit in Egypt.
Lula’s centrist candidate, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alcmin, will coordinate the transition, the Workers’ Party announced Tuesday, with the help of party leader Gleisi Hoffmann and former education minister Aloisio Mercadante.
Nogueira, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told reporters that the president had authorized him to begin the transition process with Alcmin once his name was officially submitted on Thursday.
Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Marcela Ayres and Anthony Bodle in Brasilia and Brian Ellsworth, Naira Figuereido and Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brad Haynes, Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien
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