BRASILIA/SAO PAUL, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday did not concede defeat in his first public statements since losing Sunday’s election, saying the protests by his supporters were the result of of “indignation and a sense of injustice” for voting for her.
However, he stopped short of contesting the election result and authorized his chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, to begin the transition process with representatives of the left-wing president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist, took more than 44 hours to comment after electoral authorities decided the election, with the delay leading to fears he wanted to cast doubt on the narrow result.
Amid his silence, supporters blocked roads to protest his defeat, with some calling for a military coup to prevent former president Lula from returning to power.
Road blockades have disrupted fuel distribution, supermarket supplies and the flow of grain exports to 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 stipulates a transition of power on January 1.
“The current popular movements are the result of indignation and a sense of injustice at the way the electoral process was developed”, he said.
He said protesters should avoid destroying property or “impeding the right to come and go,” but stopped short of telling them to go home.
“Bolsonaro has not put out that fire. He spoke to his supporters without criticizing the protesters on the roads,” political risk analyst Andre Cesar told Hold Legislative Advisors in Brasilia. “It keeps its most extremist followers mobilized.”
Karina Laurinda, 34, who took part in demonstrations on the highway outside São Paulo, said she would continue to protest.
“Even if he says that you need to calm down, not react, we will still react because we will not accept a Lula government,” he said.
Bolsonaro’s chief of staff and Vice President Hamilton Mourao have begun contacting Lula’s camp to discuss a transition. Other allies, including the president of the lower house of Congress, have asked since Sunday that Bolsonaro’s government respect the election result.
In a statement, the Supreme Court has said that it considers that, by authorizing the transition of the government, Bolsonaro is recognizing the result of the elections.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro repeatedly made baseless claims that the electoral system was open to fraud and accused electoral authorities of favoring his leftist opponent.
Bolsonaro did not directly repeat those claims on Tuesday. But his reference to “injustice” in the electoral process showed that 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 Brasilia.
Trump has continued to repeat false claims that the 2020 US election was “stolen” by widespread fraud and 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 would be a rematch between Bolsonaro and Lula’s Workers’ Party.
Lula’s victory represents an impressive 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 promised to reverse many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including pro-gun measures and lax protection of the Amazon rainforest. His aides confirmed on Tuesday that he would attend this month’s COP27 United Nations climate summit in Egypt.
Lula’s centrist running mate, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, will coordinate the transition, the Workers’ Party announced Tuesday, with the help of party leader Gleisi Hoffmann and former Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante .
Nogueira, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told reporters that the president had authorized him to begin the transition process with Alckmin once his name is formally presented on Thursday.
Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Marcela Ayres and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia, and Brian Ellsworth, Nayara Figuereido and Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brad Haynes, Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien
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