Bolsonaro 'authorizes' transition in Brazil without acknowledging defeat

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday "authorized" the transition to a new government, without acknowledging his defeat to leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro, 67, broke two days of silence after his razor-thin loss to Lula on Sunday, which sparked protests from his supporters across the country and fanned fears he would not accept the outcome.

In a speech that lasted just over two minutes, the far-right incumbent neither acknowledged defeat nor congratulated Lula on his victory.

But microphones did catch the president saying before his speech with a smile: "They are going to miss us."

Bolsonaro started by thanking the 58 million Brazilians who voted for him, before saying that the roadblocks erected by his supporters across the country were "the fruit of indignation and a feeling of injustice at how the electoral process took place."

"Peaceful protests will always be welcome," he said.

"As president of the Republic and a citizen, I will continue to comply with our constitution," he said, before handing the podium to his chief of staff Ciro Nogueira, who said Bolsonaro had "authorized" the "start of the transition" process.

Lula's Workers' Party announced Tuesday that his vice-president-elect Geraldo Alckmin would lead the transition process which would begin on Thursday. Lula will be inaugurated for his third term as president on January 1.

- 'We will not accept' -

Bolsonaro's appearance, however succinct, capped two days of tensions over how he would respond to such a narrow loss after months of alleging fraud in the electoral system.

"Anyplace else in the world, the defeated president would have called me to recognize his defeat," Lula said in his victory speech to a euphoric sea of red-clad supporters in Sao Paulo on Sunday night.

Before his speech Tuesday, Bolsonaro had initially remained silent even as key allies publicly recognized his loss, including the powerful speaker of the lower house of Congress, Arthur Lira.

Federal Highway Police (PRF) on Tuesday reported hundreds of total or partial road blockades across the country by truck drivers and pro-Bolsonaro supporters.

By nightfall, they said they had dispersed about 490 protests, but that about 190 demonstrations and partial road blockades remained.

Protesters wearing the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag, which the outgoing president had adopted as his own, said they would not accept the outcome of the election.

"We will not accept losing what we have gained, we want what is written on our flag -- 'order and progress,'" Antoniel Almeida, 45, told AFP at a protest in Barra Mansa, Rio de Janeiro.

"We will not accept the situation as it is."

On Monday night, Judge Alexander de Moraes of the Supreme Court ordered police to disperse the blockades immediately. He was acting in response to a request by a transport federation that complained it was losing business.

- 'Strength of our values' -

Bolsonaro became the first incumbent president in Brazil not to win re-election in the post-dictatorship era after a four-year term in which he came under fire for his disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left more than 680,000 dead in Brazil.

He also drew criticism for his vitriolic comments, polarizing style and attacks on democratic institutions and foreign allies.

Bolsonaro used his brief speech to reflect on his time in office and said the victory of a majority of right-wing candidates in Congress "shows the strength of our values: God, homeland, family, and liberty."

"Our dreams are more alive than ever. Even in the face of the system, we overcame a pandemic and the consequences of a war," Bolsonaro said, referring to Russia's war against Ukraine, which has reverberated around the globe with rising prices and concerns of a major food crisis.

"I was always labeled undemocratic and unlike my accusers, I always played within the limits of the constitution."

- Lula gets to work -

The post-election drama follows a dirty and divisive election campaign between Bolsonaro and Lula, who returns to office in a dramatic comeback.

Brazil's president between 2003 and 2010, Lula crashed into disgrace in a corruption scandal that landed him in jail before his conviction was thrown out due to bias from the lead judge. However, he was not exonerated.

The election outcome showed just how polarized the country is between the two very different leaders.

Lula scored 50.9 percent to Bolsonaro's 49.1 percent -- the narrowest margin in Brazil's modern history.

With a massive to-do list, Lula leaped into action, meeting Argentine President Alberto Fernandez in Sao Paulo and holding a series of phone calls with US President Joe Biden, France's Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Olaf Scholz, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and others.

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