Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday “he will continue to fulfill all the mandates of our constitution” in a brief speech at the presidential palace in Brasilia, after days of silence following his election loss to former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He clearly did not admit defeat, although the incident seemed to indicate his intention to cooperate with the transfer of power.
Taking the podium after the President, the chief of staff Ciro Nogueira said he will work with the new government and expects the transition team of Lula da Silva to begin the handover.
“President Jair Messias Bolsonaro authorized me, when it’s time, based on the law, to start the transition process,” Nogueira said.
Notably, Bolsonaro’s brief address did not dispute the results of the vote. Instead, he thanked those who voted for him and attacked critics. “I have always been called undemocratic and, unlike my accusers, I have always played within the four principles of the constitution,” he said.
He did not please Lula da Silva, who won with 50.9% of the vote, while Bolsonaro got 49.1%.
The elected president received the most votes in the history of Brazil – more than 60 million votes, breaking his record from 2006 by about two million votes, according to the last election authority.
Listen to what Lula had to say after giving Bolsonaro a little blow
Bolsonaro’s initial silence contributed to fears that he would not cooperate with the transfer of power, after making unsubstantiated claims before the vote about electoral fraud.
While his speech on Tuesday was brief, experts are speculating as to why he did not openly acknowledge or dispute the election results.
“Bolsonaro wants to keep this illusion that he was wronged, that’s why he lost it. You want to show the strength and culture of this movement, to admit that you have lost is to show weakness,” Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of America Quarterly, told CNN.
“By saying that he will respect the Constitution and encourage violence in other protests that have been going on, I think that (Bolsonaro) is paving the way for a normal revolution,” said Winter.
Bruna Santos, a senior adviser at the Wilson Center for Brazil, said Bolsonaro may be thinking about the long-term future of his movement.
“Bolsonarismo is a strong opposition party and it is even stronger after this election despite the loss of Bolsonaro,” he 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 to 14 members. conservative politicians will preside over the next parliament.
Brazilian lawmakers and other Bolsonaro allies have already seen Lula da Silva’s success. The president of the Brazilian Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, publicly congratulated Lula da Silva and his supporters, as did Vice President Arthur Lira – a close friend of Bolsonaro.
Some pro-Bolsonaro Telegram groups appeared to find encouragement from Bolsonaro’s speech, describing the ongoing protests as “a result of anger and a sense of injustice in the way the electoral process took place.”
CNN saw messages from supporters praising Bolsonaro for refusing to admit defeat, as well as green light protests.
“He did not understand his defeat! He did not greet his opponent! He reaffirmed his respect for the Constitution! Let’s take to the streets, like never before, safe and secure!” one user wrote.
Protesters have caused extensive damage to the country’s highways since Sunday. Brazil’s highway police said on Tuesday morning protesters blocked roads at 267 points across the country.
The highway police agency itself has faced criticism from within Brazil over its response, after videos circulating on Brazilian social media appeared to show officers telling protesters they would not interfere or shut down their protest.
In a press conference Tuesday morning, highway police chief Marco Antonio de Barros defended his agency’s actions, saying clearing the roads is “a tough job.”
“Groups of protestors numbering 500, with children by their side, adults participating. So the PRF had to act very carefully,” he said, using an acronym for the road agency.
Highway police inspector general Wendel Matos added that the agency does not support protests or highway closures, and any violations are being investigated. Sometimes two or three officers speak or act in a way that is not in accordance with our instructions. We are investigating if there is any misconduct by these officers,” said Matos.
After Bolsonaro spoke, the Supreme Court of Brazil he said that it was important to emphasize “the speech of the President of the Republic in confirming the right to come and go in relation to the obstacles, and, when determining the beginning of the change, in taking into account the result of the election.”
President-elect Lula da Silva has not commented on the protests, although she expressed disappointment on Sunday evening at Bolsonaro’s failure to concede.
The leader of Lula da Silva’s Worker’s Party, Gleisi Hoffman, said on Tuesday the party was confident that the protests would not interfere with the transfer of power. “We trust the Brazilian institutions,” he said.