Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he would “continue to carry out all the commandments of our constitution” in a short speech at the presidential palace in Brasilia, after days of silence after losing the election to former leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He did not openly admit defeat, although the event seemed to indicate his intent to cooperate with the transfer of power.
Coming up on the podium after the president, Chief of Staff Ciro Nogueira said he would work with the new government and wait for Lula da Silva’s transition team to start delivery.
“President Jair Messias Bolsonaro has authorized me, when the time comes, by law, to start the transition,” Nogueira said.
Notably, Bolsonaro’s brief speech did not contest the outcome of the vote. Instead, he thanked those who voted for him and attacked the critics. “I have always been described as undemocratic and, contrary to my accusers, have always played within the four lines of the Constitution,” he said.
He did not congratulate Lula da Silva, who won 50.9% of the vote, while Bolsonaro got 49.1%.
The president-elect received the largest number of votes in Brazilian history – more than 60 million votes, breaking his 2006 record by nearly two million votes, according to the final tally of the electoral authority.
Bolsonaro’s initial silence contributed to fears that he would not cooperate with the transfer of power, after making baseless allegations before the vote about election fraud.
While his speech on Tuesday was short, experts have speculated as to why he was outright reluctant to concede or challenge the election result.
“Bolsonaro wants to maintain this illusion that he has been wronged, and that is why he lost. He wants to show strength and in the culture of this movement, acknowledging that you lost is showing weakness,” Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly told CNN.
“By saying that he will respect the constitution and by discouraging violence in some of the protests that are happening, I think (Bolsonaro) is now paving the way for a relatively normal transition,” Winter said.
Bruna Santos, senior advisor to the Wilson Institute’s Brazil Center, said Bolsonaro was likely thinking about the long-term future of his movement.
“Bolsonarismo is a strong opposition force, and it has only grown stronger after this election, despite Bolsonaro’s loss,” she said.
In the recent legislative elections, Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party increased its representatives in the Chamber of Deputies from 76 to 99, while it doubled in the Senate from seven members to 14. Although Lula da Silva’s Labor Party has also increased representation in both houses, That conservative-leaning politicians will generally dominate the next legislature.
Brazilian lawmakers and some of Bolsonaro’s allies have already recognized Lula da Silva’s victory. The President of the Brazilian Senate Rodrigo Pacheco publicly congratulated Lula da Silva and his supporters, as well as the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Arthur Lira – a close ally of Bolsonaro.
Some pro-Bolsonaro Telegram groups appear to have been encouraged by Bolsonaro’s speech, which described the ongoing protests as “the result of discontent and a sense of injustice at how the electoral process has occurred.”
CNN saw messages from supporters praising Bolsonaro for not accepting defeat, and green lighting protests.
“He didn’t realize defeat! He didn’t salute his opponent! He reaffirmed his respect for the Constitution! Let’s take to the streets, more than ever, safe and sure!” one user wrote.
Protesters have wreaked havoc on the nation’s highways since Sunday. Brazilian Highway Police said Tuesday morning that protesters had blocked roads at 267 points across the country.
The Highway Police Agency itself has faced criticism within Brazil over its response, after videos circulating on social media in Brazil surfaced showing officers telling protesters they would not disrupt or stop their protests.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Highway Police Executive Director Marco Antonio de Barros defended his agency’s actions, saying that road cleaning is a “complex process.”
Groups of up to 500 protesters participate, with children in their arms and elderly people. So PRF had to act very carefully,” he said, using an acronym for Highway Agency.
Highway Police Inspector General Wendell Mattos added that the foundation does not support protests or the closure of federal highways, and that any potential violations of protocol are being investigated. Sometimes two or three officers speak or act in a manner inconsistent with our orders. “We are investigating whether there was any misconduct by these officers,” Matos said.
After Bolsonaro spoke, Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court He said That it was important to emphasize “the speech of the President of the Republic in ensuring the right to come and go with regard to the blockade, and when determining the beginning of the transitional phase, in recognizing the outcome of the elections.”
President-elect Lula da Silva has not commented on the protests, although on Sunday evening he expressed disappointment with Bolsonaro’s initial failure to abdicate.
Labor leader Lula da Silva, Gliese Hoffman, said on Tuesday that the party was confident the protests would not interfere with the eventual transition of power. “We trust Brazilian institutions,” she said.