Brazil elects Jair Bolsonaro as its next president

Brazil elects Jair Bolsonaro as its next president

In the most polarized election in the history of Brazil, the second round of the presidential election featured a far left and a far right candidate and split the electorate. In the end, dissatisfaction with political establishment pushed hardliner Jair Bolsonaro over the finish line to victory.

On October 28, 2018, Brazil elected Jair Bolsonaro (PSL – right) as the next President of Brazil with 55% of the vote. He defeated Fernando Haddad (PT – left) who received 45% of the vote. Haddad entered the presidential race as the PT’s back-up candidate after the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) deemed former President Lula ineligible.

Bolsonaro, 63, is a retired Army Captain and has served 7 terms as a Federal Deputy. His Vice President is General Hamilton Mourao, who also served in the military and commanded the 6th Army Division and the Southern Military Command of Brazil.

The market has already shown signs of satisfaction with a Bolsonaro Presidency. Since his performance in the first round, the real has appreciated against the dollar by 9.56%, closing on October 26 at R$ 3.65. The market sees more economic stability as Bolsonaro has announced that Paulo Guedes will be his Minister of Finance. Guedes is a liberal “Chicago-boy,” and is expected to enact a variety of reforms to create freer markets.

Political priorities

Bolsonaro ran his campaign with the promise of a liberal democracy, focusing on security, health, education, and zero tolerance for crime, corruption and government privileges. Some of his major proposals would require constitutional amendments (PECs), which will be difficult to obtain at a time where the House and the Senate are extremely fragmented. In order to approve a PEC, the proposal needs go through two rounds, requiring at least three-fifths of the vote of the total members of the House and Senate. Nonetheless, campaign promises Bolsonaro has laid out in publications such as Project Fenix are worth examining to get a sense of his likely priorities in office.


Bolsonaro wants to create a super-ministry of the economy that combines the Ministries of Finance, Planning, Industry, Commerce and the Executive Secretariat of Investment Partnerships Program (PPI). Public banks such as Caixa Economica Federal, Banco do Brasil, and Brazil’s Development Bank (BNDES) would be linked to this new super-ministry. The Banco Central would be independent, with directors having pre-set mandates.

He plans to focus on fiscal control, moving away from populist policies, and controlling inflation. The document also highlights a privatization plan for public companies, and using the resultant funds to reduce the Brazilian public debt by 20%. He also plans to create a One Stop Shop, which will centralize all procedures for opening and closing companies.

Tax reform

The tax reform advocated by Bolsonaro foresees the simplification and unification of federal taxes and the decentralization and municipalization of taxes, establishing a single rate of 20% of income tax and exempting of taxes anyone who earns up to five minimum salaries. He is against taxation of great fortunes and inheritances and against new taxes on entrepreneurs.

Trade and foreign relations

Bolsonaro expressed interest in approaching Israel and the United States and promised to visit the two countries early after he takes office. He has also signaled a change in relations with China and Venezuela. With China despite wanting to maintain trade relations, he wants to decrease Chinese participation in Brazil, as for Venezuela he intends to cut off relations. He also wants to reduce import tariffs and non-tariff barriers and constitute new bilateral international agreements.


The government plan proposes to reduce the legal age of legal majority to 17 years old (initially Bolsonaro wanted 16, but does not believe that would pass in Congress), allows the use and carry of firearms by the general population, and calls for investments in equipment, technology, intelligence and investigative capacities of the armed forces. Bolsonaro also intends to end the progression of penalties and temporary exits for prisoners and defends changes to the criminal code to establish legitimate self-defense for civilians and for policemen on the job.


Bolsonaro plans to set online and distance education, from elementary until higher education as a means to lessen the cost of education and create military schools in all state capitals. He is also in favor of investing in research at universities and ending the quota-systems at universities. He supports the No Party School and is against gender ideology in schools. He also wants to include in school curriculum subjects like moral and civic education (EMC) and Brazilian social and political organization (OSPB). In terms of higher education, Bolsonaro also has stated that those who can afford to must pay for Federal universities–currently the Federal university system is free for the ones who pass the “vestibular” exam.


Bolsonaro plans to create the National Electronic Record that will register patients who are seen in stations, outpatient clinics and hospitals. He also plans on creating “state doctors” to serve the remote and needy areas of the country and to create the universal accreditation of physicians so that every Brazilian doctor can attend to any patient on any health plan.

His plan aims to introduce physical education in Family Health programs to promote outdoor activities and combat physical inactivity and obesity and to combat child mortality–it also advocates improving basic sanitation and adopting preventive health measures.



Categories: Latin America, Politics

About Author

Lorena Valente

Lorena Valente is an Associate at Promontory Financial Group, an IBM company. Previously, she was a Consultant for the World Bank Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management Brazil Team. She has also held positions at the Inter-American Development Bank, Albright Stonebridge Group, and McLarty Associates where she performed political and economic risk analysis for Latin America, with a special focus on Brazil. She earned her MA in International Economics and Latin American Studies from Johns Hopkins SAIS, and her BA summa cum laude in Political Sciences from the George Washington University. Originally from Brazil, she speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and English. *Views and opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the author and are not endorsed by Promontory.