Brazil's Haddad: Democracy at risk if 'dangerous' Bolsonaro elected

 Brazils Haddad: Democracy at risk if dangerous Bolsonaro elected

By Tais Haupt and Anthony Boadle

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's leftist presidential candidate Fernando Haddad said on Monday that if his far-right rival, Jair Bolsonaro, wins this weekend's vote as expected, military hard-liners will threaten democratic institutions and the country's young democracy.

Haddad sounded the alarm as the latest opinion poll showed him lagging well behind Bolsonaro ahead of Sunday's run-off vote.

He spoke a day after Bolsonaro renewed his vow to wipe Haddad's Workers Party (PT) from the country's political map, and after a video surfaced of Bolsonaro's son, Eduardo, saying the Supreme Court could be forcibly disbanded if it stripped his father of an electoral victory.

"If (Bolsonaro) has the courage to threaten democracy before the election, what do you think he will do if he wins?" Haddad said at a press conference in Sao Paulo.

"Either we toss aside this authoritarian tradition that Brazil has always had ... or we are in danger, including physical, if we do not alert the country that the political opposition, judges and journalists are being threatened before the election has been decided."

Bolsonaro is a former army captain and seven-term member of Congress who has found wide appeal with an electorate seeking order after five years of economic and political crises. Haddad has faced strong headwinds as his party is closely associated in the minds of many Brazilians with corruption scandals.

Until his presidential run, Bolsonaro was best known for his pro-military junta, homophobic and misogynist rants over the years.

His son is also a member of Congress who was re-elected in the Oct. 7 first-round ballot with more votes than any other lawmaker in the country.

In a video taken in July of him speaking in a classroom, Eduardo Bolsonaro said the Supreme Court could be shut down if it countered his father. "One wouldn't even need a Jeep, sending a soldier and corporal would be enough to close the STF," he said, using the acronym for the court.

The younger Bolsonaro posted another video Monday on his Twitter account criticizing the top court and backing his father's proposal to increase its size from 11 to 21 members - something that Haddad said was a clear attempt to neutralize the court's current justices.

Justice Celso de Mello called Eduardo Bolsonaro a "coup-monger" in a written statement. Mello said the junior congressman's "unacceptable authoritarian view" was a danger to Brazil's democratic system and disregarded the country's constitution.

Brazil is living in "dark times," fellow justice Marco Aurélio Mello told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper for an article posted on its website on Monday.

An MDA opinion poll published on Monday by transportation lobby CNT showed that Bolsonaro had 57 percent of voter support, compared to Haddad's 43 percent.

The numbers were in line with other polls that show Bolsonaro taking 59 percent (Datafolha) or 60 percent (BTG/FSB) of the votes.[E6N1T0007]

As Brazil's most polarized presidential campaign in decades entered its last week, tens of thousands of Bolsonaro's backers gathered in several cities across Brazil on Sunday, and the vibe was more of victory parties than pre-vote rallies.

Anti-Bolsonaro protesters gathered in fewer cities on Saturday for events that were mostly organized by a Facebook group of women voters who oppose him.

(Reporting by Tais Haupt in Sao Paulo and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Updated Date: Oct 23, 2018 00:07:16 IST