Brazil: Bolsonaro continues to lead polls amid fake news scandal

Latest opinion polls show the far-right candidate's challenger, Fernando Haddad, will face uphill battle on October 28.

Sao Paulo - Brazil's turbulent election enters its final phase with
far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro poised for victory amid a
high-profile fake-news scandal and an uptick of reports of electoral

Latest opinion polls from the Datafolha polling agency suggest that
Bolsonaro - who openly praises Brazil's 1964 - 1985 military
dictatorship - is heading for a landslide victory against his
centre-left rival Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party (PT) on October
28 with the 59 percent of intended votes compared with 41 percent.

But on Thursday, his campaign appeared to be at least temporarily
shaken, as Brazil's Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported that
businessmen and companies were secretly financing the mass spread of
slanderous messages about Haddad via the online messaging platform

According to the newspaper, the practice constitutes an electoral crime
as all political campaign donations must be declared and donations from
companies were banned in 2015, a practice introduced to tackle

"We will call on the Federal Police and the Electoral Justice to prevent
Deputy Bolsonaro from violently violating democracy as he has done,"
Haddad tweeted.

In an article published by the Brazilian news portal UOL, legal experts
commented that if proven the case could eventually lead to Bolsonaro's
electoral ticket being cancelled though this is considered highly
unlikely before the final round of voting next Sunday.

On Friday, a video - originally posted on August 28 - circulated on
Brazilian social media of two prominent businessmen Luciano Hang and
Mario Gazin calling for Bolsonaro to win in the first round to not have
to spend "more money," fuelling further speculation of illegal campaign

Hang, owner of the chain of department stores Havan, is one of the
businessmen cited in the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper report. He denied
the accusations and said he planned to sue the newspaper.

Bolsonaro hit back on Thursday night with a 20-minute Facebook Live in
which he attacked the newspaper as "continuing to sink into the mud" and
the Workers' Party; calling Haddad a "scoundrel".

"We don't need fake news to combat Haddad, the truths are sufficient," he said.

Probe ordered

Brazil's electoral court scheduled a meeting for Friday to discuss
measures to tackle the spread of fake news on social media but delayed
the meeting until Sunday. On Friday night, the electoral court opened an
investigation. And on Saturday, Brazil's Federal Police opened an
inquiry to investigate the scandal.

The mass spread of fake news during Brazil's 2018 election has become a
key concern. While attacks have been directed at all candidates,
observers say that Bolsonaro is a main benefactor.

"It's a campaign based very little on news, based more on images and
videos, with a language of social media and of very poor quality," Pablo
Ortellado, a professor of public policy at the University of Sao Paulo,
who leads a project to monitor online debates, said of content found in
pro Bolsonaro Whatsapp groups.

Meanwhile, the number of reports of electoral violence in Brazil
continues to rise and prompted the United Nations Human Rights
Commission last week to issue a condemnation. Bolsonaro and Haddad have
both publicly condemned the violence.

Sao Paulo police are investigating the murder of a transgender woman who
died from stab wounds in the early hours of Tuesday morning in which a
witness reported that the attackers shouted "Bolsonaro".

On Wednesday, police in Bahia state confirmed that the murder of
capoeira master Moa do Katende was committed by Bolsonaro supporter
Paulo Sergio Ferreira de Santana who stabbed the victim 12 times in the
back after an argument about politics.

Throughout his nearly three-decade career in politics as a congressman,
Bolsonaro repeatedly made statements affirming support of the use of
torture, extrajudicial police killings and calling for the execution of
political opponents, including former Brazilian President Fernando
Henrique Cardoso.

Observers worry that if he's elected, an iron-fisted crackdown on
Brazil's spiralling crime problem - with more than 63,000 homicides last
year - could lead to a greater even explosion of violence,
disproportionately affecting marginalised groups.

"We hope that control of any excesses would be made by Brazil's
democratic institutions and that, the outrageous remarks he made
throughout his career, weren't serious and won't be put into practice,"
said Bruno Paes Manso, a researcher at the Nucleus of Violence Studies
at the University of Sao Paulo.

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