Throngs of Bolsonaro supporters flooded streets with the green, yellow and blue of the national flag in Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities, holding massive prayer sessions and chanting slogans in support of the embattled far-right leader.
Shouting “Get out, Bolsonaro!”, opposition protesters held their own rival rallies, an opening salvo ahead of elections in October 2022 that polls currently place the president on track to lose.
Bolsonaro, a 66-year-old former Army Captain who is openly nostalgic for Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), warned his backers their “democracy” and “freedom” were under threat by the powers that be in Brasilia. Bolsonaro doubled down on his attacks on Brazil’s electronic voting system, telling a massive crowd in Sao Paulo he refused to take part in an election “farce” in 2022.
“We want clean, democratic elections… I can’t participate in a farce like the one being sponsored by the Superior Electoral Tribunal,” he said.
“Only God can remove me. I’m only coming out of this jailed, dead or victorious.”
Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked Brazil’s voting system, claiming — without evidence — that it is plagued by fraud.
He wants a paper copy of each ballot printed to enable an audit.
The President additionally faces a Senate inquiry into his Government’s controversial handling of Covid-19, which has claimed more than 580,000 lives in Brazil, second only to the United States.
Recent polls put Bolsonaro’s approval rating at less than 25 percent, the lowest level since he took office in 2019.
With polls putting him on track to lose badly to leftist ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in next year’s elections, Bolsonaro is hoping to use the rally to energize his supporters. Political scientist Mauricio Santoro said he feared Bolsonaro would try to follow the same script as Trump and attempt to delegitimize Brazil’s elections.