Bolsonaro Administration Agrees to Accept Loss Two Days After Election

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BRASÍLIA — Two days after losing Brazil’s presidential election, President Jair Bolsonaro agreed to a transition of power on Tuesday, easing fears that the far-right leader would contest the results after warning for months that the only way he would lose would be if the vote was stolen.

In a two-minute speech, Mr. Bolsonaro thanked his supporters, encouraged protesters to be peaceful, celebrated his accomplishments, criticized the left and said he has always followed the constitution. What was absent was any acknowledgment that he had lost the vote or that the election had been free and fair.

Instead, after Mr. Bolsonaro’s comments, the president’s chief of staff took the lectern and said that the government would hand over power to the incoming administration.

“President Bolsonaro has authorized me — when requested, based on the law — to start the transition process,” said Mr. Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira.

The question now remains how the president’s comments will be received by his thousands of supporters who have blocked hundreds of highways across Brazil in a bid to “paralyze” the country and somehow overturn the election.

Mr. Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that those protests “are the fruit of the indignation and feelings of injustice in the electoral process.” But he urged his supporters to halt disruptions. “Peaceful demonstrations will always be welcome,” he said. “But our methods cannot be those of the left, like property invasion, destruction of goods and restrictions on the right to come and go.”

His government’s decision to begin transferring power to President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was welcome news for Brazil’s democracy. The president has long attacked Brazil’s election system as rife with fraud, despite a lack of evidence, and ahead of Sunday’s election, he had suggested that the left was trying to rig the vote.

So when the talkative politician suddenly went silent for two days, the nation was kept on edge, wondering if he would dispute his loss — much like Donald J. Trump did after he lost to President Biden.

Now, Brazil’s government can fully begin working toward a transition to Mr. da Silva, a leftist former president who is returning to lead Brazil 12 years after his first administration. He is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 1. During his time out of office, Mr. da Silva served 17 months in prison on corruption charges that were later thrown out.

Mr. Bolsonaro did not mention Mr. da Silva on Tuesday.

Mr. da Silva’s primary challenges as president will be dealing with Brazil’s deep division. Mr. Bolsonaro received 58.2 million votes, or 49.1 percent of the ballots, the closest presidential contest in the 34 years of Brazil’s modern democracy.

Many of Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters consider Mr. da Silva a criminal and many have lost faith in the integrity of Brazil’s elections — both views stoked by the far-right leader.

That radicalization was illustrated by the unrest across Brazil. As of Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters had set up 227 active blockades of roads in 22 of Brazil’s 27 states, according to the federal highway police. The police said they had cleared 330 other blockades since the election ended.

Flávia Milhorance contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.


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