Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he would “continue to fulfill all the commandments of our constitution” in a brief speech at the presidential palace in Brasilia, after days of silence following his election defeat to former left-wing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He did not explicitly concede defeat, although the event seemed to signal his intention to cooperate in the transfer of power.
Stepping onto the podium after the president, chief of staff Ciro Nogueira said he would work with the new government and is waiting for Lula da Silva’s transition team to begin the handover.
“President Jair Messias Bolsonaro authorized me, when the time came, on the basis of the law, to start the transition process,” Nogueira said.
Notably, Bolsonaro’s brief address did not dispute the outcome of the vote. Instead, he thanked those who voted for him and denounced the critics. “I have always been branded as undemocratic and, unlike my accusers, I have always played within the four lines of the constitution,” he said.
He did not congratulate Lula da Silva, who won with 50.9% of the vote, while Bolsonaro obtained 49.1%.
The president-elect received the most votes in Brazil’s history – more than 60 million votes, beating his own 2006 record of nearly two million votes, according to the electoral authority’s final tally.
Hear what Lula said after narrowly beating Bolsonaro
Bolsonaro’s initial silence had helped raise concerns that he would not cooperate with the transfer of power, after making unsubstantiated allegations ahead of the vote of voter fraud.
While his Tuesday speech was short, pundits speculated as to why he refrained from conceding or explicitly challenging the election result.
“Bolsonaro wants to maintain this illusion that he was wronged, and that’s why he lost. He wants to show his strength and in the culture of this movement, to admit you lost is to show weakness,” Americas Quarterly editor Brian Winter told CNN.
“By saying he’s going to respect the Constitution and discouraging violence in some of the protests that have taken place, I think (Bolsonaro) is basically paving the way now for a relatively normal transition,” Winter said.
Bruna Santos, senior adviser at the Brazil Center at the Wilson Institute, said Bolsonaro was likely thinking about the long-term future of his movement.
“Bolsonarismo is a strong opposition force and has grown even stronger after this election despite Bolsonaro’s defeat,” she said.
In the last legislative elections, Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party increased its representatives in the lower house from 76 to 99, while in the Senate it doubled from seven members to 14. Although Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party also increased its representation in both houses, conservative-leaning politicians will overall dominate the next legislature.
Brazilian lawmakers and some Bolsonaro allies have already acknowledged Lula da Silva’s victory. Brazilian Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco publicly praised Lula da Silva and his supporters, as did Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Arthur Lira, a close Bolsonaro ally.
Some pro-Bolsonaro Telegram groups appeared encouraged by Bolsonaro’s speech, which described the ongoing protests as “the result of outrage and a sense of injustice at the way the electoral process has been conducted.”
CNN has seen messages from supporters praising Bolsonaro for not accepting defeat and demonstrations of green lighting.
“He didn’t concede defeat!” He did not greet his opponent! He reaffirmed his respect for the Constitution! Let’s go out into the streets, more than ever, safe and certain!” a user wrote.
Protesters have wreaked havoc on highways across the country since Sunday. Brazilian highway police said Tuesday morning that protesters had blocked roads at 267 points across the country.
The traffic police agency itself has faced criticism in Brazil for its response, after videos circulating on Brazilian social media appeared to show officers telling protesters they would not disrupt or end to their demonstrations.
At a news conference on Tuesday morning, Traffic Police Executive Director Marco Antonio de Barros defended his agency’s actions, saying clearing the roads was a “complex operation”.
“Groups of up to 500 demonstrators, with children on their knees, elderly people are taking part. The PRF therefore had to act very carefully,” he said, using an acronym for the highways agency.
Highway Patrol Inspector General Wendel Matos added that the institution does not support protests or the closing of federal highways, and that any potential violations of protocol are being investigated. “Sometimes two or three officers speak or act in a way inconsistent with our orders. We are investigating whether there was any misconduct on the part of these officers,” Matos said.
After Bolsonaro’s speech, Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court
that it was important to underline “the speech of the President of the Republic by guaranteeing the right to come and go in relation to blockages and, by determining the start of the transition, by recognizing the result of the elections”.
O Supremo Tribunal Federal consigna a importância do pronunciamento do Presidente da República em garantir o direito de ir e vir em relação aos bloqueios e, ao determinar o início da transição, reconhecer o resultado final das eleições.— STF (@STF_oficial) November 1, 2022
President-elect Lula da Silva has not commented on the protests, although he expressed disappointment on Sunday night at Bolsonaro’s initial failure to concede.
Lula da Silva Workers’ Party leader Gleisi Hoffman said on Tuesday the party was confident the protests would not interfere with the eventual transfer of power. “We trust Brazilian institutions,” she said.
. Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro cedes not but signals cooperation with transfer power in speech