BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday he would respect the result of an October election regardless of the result, as long as the voting is “clean and transparent.”
In an interview with TV Globo’s Jornal Nacional, a nightly newscast with the largest audience in Brazil, the far-right politician insisted without evidence there had been fraud in past Brazilian elections.
Bolsonaro did not mention the electronic voting system that he has attacked relentlessly for months, alleging they are open to manipulation. But the former army captain said the military should have a role in deciding the transparency of the vote.
Opinion polls show Bolsonaro trailing in the presidential race to leftist rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who governed from 2003-2010 when Brazil’s economy was booming.
While the interview was being broadcast, pot-banging and shouts of “Out with Bolsonaro” were heard in Brazil’s largest cities by people unhappy with his three-year administration.
Bolsonaro said he had received a country in a bad economic situation compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and then the Ukraine war and had managed to pull through.
Among his achievements, he mentioned the increase of monthly welfare payments for low-income families he said would benefit 20 million Brazilians, a handout that polls show has improved his numbers in recent weeks and narrowed Lula’s advantage.
Bolsonaro dismissed reports that deforestation in the Amazon has surged on his watch because he has dismantled enforcement policies.
Instead, he charged that the government’s environmental protection agency Ibama has committed abuses by destroying heavy equipment that is usually seized in the rainforest from illegal gold miners.
Bolsonaro added Brazil’s Amazon was the size of Western Europe and the country preserved 66% of its green areas. “Brazil does not deserve to be attacked this way. We will try to improve (Brazil’s image abroad),” he said.
Concerns over his failure to stop deforestation has led to resistance in the European Union to ratifying a free trade deal with the South American bloc Mercosur.
Bolsonaro said supply problems caused by the Ukraine war have now made the EU want to speed up conclusion of the trade pact.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes, Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast)