Bolsonaro: Only God will remove me from power

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro struck a defiant note on the country’s independence day on Tuesday.

He told tens of thousands of his supporters who had gathered in the city of São Paulo that only God would remove him from power.

He also launched fresh attacks on Congress and the Supreme Court, institutions he says are persecuting him and his political allies.

The court recently approved several investigations into Mr Bolsonaro.

What’s behind his remarks?

Mr Bolsonaro has always been fond of giving impassioned speeches in which he not only lambasts his critics and calls them names but also portrays himself as the victim of concerted attacks by his rivals.

But mounting pressure from several investigations and calls for his impeachment have led to the president’s rhetoric becoming ever more belligerent.

The rallies he convened for independence day were seen as an attempt to demonstrate he can still draw huge crowds of supporters after recent polls had him trailing his left-wing rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by nine percentage points.

While elections are not due to be held until October 2022, Mr Bolsonaro’s approval ratings have also dropped to an all-time low.

A poll by the Atlas Institute suggested that 61% of Brazilians described his government’s performance as bad or very bad, up from 23% when he first took office in January 2019.

While an attempt to impeach the president over his handling of the Covid crisis was blocked by the speaker of the lower house of Congress, Mr Bolsonaro is portraying himself as under attack from Congress and the Supreme Court.

Last week, he told evangelical leaders – who are among his staunchest backers – that “I have three alternatives for my future: being arrested, killed or victory”.

And he again took up that theme in his speech on independence day, saying that “only God will oust me”.

Casting doubts on election

He also used his speech to again cast doubts on Brazil’s electronic voting system, telling his supporters he would not take part in an election “farce” in 2022.

Mr Bolsonaro has long tried to change the exclusively electronic system, which he alleges is open to fraud, to one which provides paper receipts for each vote cast.

The electoral tribunal has not only dismissed his attacks as “disinformation” but has also opened an investigation into the president’s allegations that the system is fraudulent.

His critics say he is using the same tactics as former US President Donald Trump to allege widespread fraud in case he loses next year’s presidential election.

Sea of green and yellow

An estimated 140,000 people, many of them waving the Brazilian flag, answered Mr Bolsonaro’s call to rally in São Paulo, where they filled Paulista Avenue.

The president had earlier attended another rally in the capital, Brasilia, where tens of thousands gathered to express their support for the president.

There was a large police presence in Brasilia where threats made by some of the president’s supporters to storm the Supreme Court had led to fears that Brazil could see similar scenes to those that played out on 6 January in Washington DC, when supporters of President Trump surged past barricades into the US Capitol.

But while some Bolsonaro supporters broke though a police cordon in the early hours of Tuesday, they did not manage to surround the Supreme Court building.

Mr Bolsonaro did again lash out at the Supreme Court justices, telling the crowd that “I’m very happy to see that all of Brazil got together for a new independence against the communist dictatorship of the judicial authorities”.

He has frequently clashed with Supreme Court justices during his tenure and tried to have one of them impeached after the judge launched two investigations against him.

Many of his supporters called for the closure of the Supreme Court and Congress, accusing them of abusing their powers and persecuting Mr Bolsonaro.

Many left-wing and trade union groups which had originally called on their supporters to hold counter-on Tuesday, moved their events to Sunday to avoid clashes with Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters.

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