President Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign was betting heavily on two recent international trips to help him close the gap in the polls with former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. First, a trip to London for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Then a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The strategy, it appears, didn’t work at all.
Last week, Mr. Bolsonaro not only didn’t gain any ground in the most recent polls, but also saw the gap widen further between him and Lula ahead of the October 2 elections.
According to a Datafolha poll released on September 22, voting intentions for Lula grew from 45% to 47% while Mr. Bolsonaro remained at 33%.
Taking into account only valid votes, excluding blanks and nulls, Lula varies from 50% to 52% — a figure that would be enough to win the election in the first round.
Bolsonaro campaigned in a grieving London
Bolsonaro’s trip to England had a very negative impact on Brazil and abroad, according to press accounts and his opposition.
In London, he met with his supporters outside the Brazilian embassy and addressed them from the building’s balcony on the day before the Queen’s funeral, a time of mourning in England.
At the embassy, a public building, the president made a speech heavily promoting his campaign for reelection: he attacked Lula and the left-wing parties and said he was “sure” that he would win the election in the first round.
The British press criticized Bolsonaro and accused him of using the Queen’s funeral to stage a political rally.
In Brazil, the president was also criticized by the press and his political opponents, who went to the country’s Electoral Court to demand that circulation of the footage of the speech outside the embassy be prohibited as Bolsonaro should not have used a public building for political campaigning. The Electoral Court ruled in favor of the opposition.
Bolsonaro’s supporters were also involved in altercations during the president’s visit. Two BBC Brasil journalists were targets of abuse while working, and a London resident was seen arguing with Bolsonaro supporters and demanding respect on the day of the Queen’s funeral. “You are disrespecting Brazil. This is the Queen’s funeral. Show more respect,” said the Briton.
From London, Bolsonaro went straight to New York, where he spoke at the United Nations General Assembly. Once again, the president chose an electoral tone for his speech.
Bolsonaro said he had put an end to the “systemic corruption” installed in Brazil by previous leftist governments like Lula’s. The president also defended conservative guidelines, which are the basis of his administration.
“The fundamental values of Brazilian society are the defense of the family, the right to life from conception, self-defense and the repudiation of gender ideology,” Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro’s disapproval rate remains high after his speeches
In addition to remaining stagnant in the polls, Bolsonaro also didn’t see any improvement of his disapproval rating amongst Brazilians surveyed by Datafolha. The president’s disapproval was 52% while Lula’s hit 39%.
Since pollsters began releasing data in May, Bolsonaro’s disapproval rate has remained above 50%. On September 15, his rate hit 53%, while Lula’s rejection has remained at 39% since the beginning of the month.
Throughout Brazil’s history, no candidate with more than a 50% disapproval rating managed to be elected.
If the president were to face elections today, according to these polls, he could be the first president since the re-democratization of Brazil in 1985 to not be re-elected for a second term.