Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday that he would “continue to fulfill all the commandments of our constitution” in a short speech at the presidential palace in Brasilia, after days of silence following his election loss to the leftist former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He did not explicitly concede defeat, though the event appeared to signal his intention to cooperate with the transfer of power.
Taking the podium after the President, chief of staff Ciro Nogueira said that he would work with the new government and is waiting for Lula da Silva’s transition team to begin the handover.
“President Jair Messias Bolsonaro authorized me, when it is time, based on the law, to start the transition process,” Nogueira said.
Notably, Bolsonaro’s brief address did not contest the vote result, after having insisted on unfounded claims of electoral fraud and unfair treatment by the media in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s run-off vote.
Instead, he thanked those who voted for him and hit out at critics. “I have always been labeled undemocratic and, unlike my accusers, I have always played within the four lines of the constitution,” he said.
Referring to his supporters, who have wreaked havoc on the country’s highways since Sunday in a show of anger over Lula da Silva’s win, Bolsonaro said “the current popular movements are the result of indignation and a feeling of injustice at how the electoral process took place.”
He did not congratulate Lula da Silva, who won with 50.9% of the vote, while Bolsonaro gained 49.1%.
The President-elect received the most votes in Brazilian history – more than 60 million votes, breaking his own record from 2006 by almost two million votes, according to the election authority’s final tally.
Bolsonaro supporters still blocking roads
Pro-Bolsonaro protesters are currently blocking Brazil’s highways at 267 points across the country, according to Brazil’s highway police, who have faced criticism within Brazil over the speed of their response.
Videos circulating on Brazil’s social media appeared to show highway police officers telling protestors that they would not disrupt or shut down their protests.
In a press conference on Tuesday morning, highway police executive director Marco Antonio de Barros defended his agency’s actions, saying clearing the roads was a “complex operation.”
“Groups of up to 500 protesters, with children on their laps, elderly are participating in it. So the PRF had to act with plenty of caution,” he said, using an acronym for the highways agency.
Highway police general inspector Wendel Matos added the institution does not support the protests or the shutdown of federal highways, and that any potential breaches of protocol were being investigated. “Sometimes two or three officers speak or act in a way that is incompatible with our orders. We are investigating if there has been any misconduct by those officers,” Matos said.
Their statements came after Supreme Court judges on Tuesday morning called for state military police to be deployed to disperse the blockades, which cut off supply chains and caused delays at airports on Monday.
Bolsonaro’s silence contributed to fears that he would not cooperate with the transfer of power, after making unfounded claims prior to the vote about electoral fraud.
But Brazilian lawmakers and some Bolsonaro allies have been recognizing Lula da Silva’s win. Brazilian Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco publicly congratulated Lula da Silva and his supporters, as has Chamber of Deputies President Arthur Lira – a close Bolsonaro ally.
President-elect Lula da Silva has not commented on the protests, though he 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 that the party was confident such protests would not interfere with the eventual transfer of power. “We trust Brazilian institutions,” she said.