The candidates for the Brazilian presidential election have seen each other for the last time before the elections on Sunday. The debate, organized this Thursday night by the Globo television network, has lasted for more than three hours. Although the attention was focused on the two favorites, Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the format of the discussion has meant that their presence was diluted among the other five candidates present.
attacks on favorites
Lula received attacks from several candidates for the corruption scandals of his Government. The leftist candidate for the Presidency responded that during his term the guilty parties were investigated and punished. Regarding the complaints against him, he stressed that he had been acquitted by the courts – in truth, some of the convictions have been annulled due to formal defects. As soon as he could, he diverted the conversation to topics where he feels more comfortable, such as the achievements of his government in terms of social policy and job creation.
Bolsonaro was criticized for his management of the pandemic and environmental policy. The current president defended the laxity of the restrictions and the individual “freedom” of each one to get vaccinated or not. On the increase in deforestation, he highlighted the size of the Amazon, like Western Europe, and said that he could not control the rains.
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Lula and Bolsonaro got into a bitter exchange of qualifiers in the first ten minutes. The far-rightist addressed his rival as an “ex-prisoner” (for having served a sentence, which was later annulled), while the left-wing candidate accused him of “dishonesty”, and asked him for responsibility given the possibility that his little daughter was watching the discussion. Outside of those first minutes, Bolsonaro avoided raising the tone, except when he described the right-wing Soraya Thronicke as a “front” candidate, a slipper for whom he tries to reduce her rejection among women. Lula lost his nerve once again when another candidate, Father Kelmon, accused him of being corrupt. In response, the leftist branded him an “imposter” and asked him to “shut his mouth.”
The minimal presenter
William Bonner, host of Globo’s nightly newscast, had a limited role due to the format. He didn’t ask the questions; he just randomly chose the topics to be discussed by the candidates. However, the moderator had to stop the debate several times to silence the interrupters. “In respect to the public, I ask you to try to maintain an adequate level of environment,” he claimed to Lula and Bolsonaro, at the beginning.
Fluid and chaotic discussion format
The form chosen for the debate made possible a fluid but chaotic exchange. It was divided into four blocks, two of them free and the other two thematic. The candidates asked the rival they chose. After getting into an argument in the first minutes, Bolsonaro and Lula avoided more direct confrontations and preferred to ask others. The debate lasted for more than three hours and, at times, seemed more like a canned succession of electoral propaganda videos than a dialogue.
A third way present
The format gave equal time to all candidates, whether they had 55% of the vote or 1% in the polls. That opened the space that the options that are presented as a third way between Lula and Bolsonaro were looking for. Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet, third and fourth according to the polls, called for an end to polarization and tried to present an image of statesmen with concrete proposals. Soraya Thronicke and Felipe D’Ávila, with minimal support, also had their chance.
Father Kelmon, an ally of Bolsonaro, put the exotic note. The self-proclaimed Orthodox archbishop, who is not officially recognized as such by the Church, charged against the cultural programs on television promoted during the leftist governments, where “immoral things are done with bodies”. When Thronicke asked him about the deaths from the pandemic and if he was afraid of “going to hell”, the father replied, very upset, that she did not know “the value of a priest” and that he was not afraid of hell because he lived “in the Gospel”.
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