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Jair Bolsonaro refuses to concede Brazil election loss, but clears way for transfer of power

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has refused to concede the election he lost to leftist Lula da Silva in a brief speech that marked his first comments since results were released two days ago.

But afterwards, chief of staff Ciro Nogueira told reporters that Bolsonaro had authorized him to begin the transition process.

Bolsonaro’s address didn’t mention the election results, but he said he will continue to follow the rules of the nation’s constitution.

“I have always been labeled as anti-democratic and, unlike my accusers, I have always played within the four lines of the constitution, ”Bolsonaro, flanked by more than a dozen ministers and allies, told reporters in the official residence in Brasilia.

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro makes his first public comments since losing the election.

Eraldo Peres / AP

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro makes his first public comments since losing the election.

Bolsonaro lost the election by a thin margin, garnering 49.1% of the vote to da Silva’s 50.9%, according to the nation’s electoral authority.

It was the tightest presidential race since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985 and marks the first time Bolsonaro has lost an election in his 34-year political career, including seven races for a seat in Congress’ Lower House.

Much like former US president Donald Trump, whom Bolsonaro openly admires, the far-right incumbent has repeatedly questioned the reliability of the country’s electoral system, claiming electronic voting machines are prone to fraud. He never provided any proof, even when ordered to do so by the electoral court.

That led many political analysts to warn that Bolsonaro appeared to be laying the groundwork to reject election results.

In recent days, and without a public statement from Bolsonaro, truck drivers and other supporters of his blocked hundreds of roads across the country. Many said the election had been fraudulent and some called for military intervention and for Congress and the Supreme Court to be disbanded.

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (local time) ordered the federal highway police to immediately clear the roads.

A majority of the court’s justices backed the decision, which accuses the highway police of “inertia”. Federal prosecutors said they had opened investigations into the blockades.

Brazilian riot police move in to unblock a highway occupied by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Andre Penner / AP

Brazilian riot police move in to unblock a highway occupied by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro.

In Sao Paulo – Brazil’s most populous state and largest economy – traffic jams around the international airport led to dozens of flight cancellations, with videos on social media showing travelers rolling their suitcases along the highway in the dark trying to catch their flights. The highways had been cleared by Tuesday morning, but airport officials said access remained difficult as traffic was still backed up in and out of the airport.

In Minas Gerais, a key battleground state in the election, a video on social media showed a protester telling a local reporter that the election was “fraudulent” and warned of future protests.

“We won’t stop as long as we don’t have a response from our president,” he said. “We want Bolsonaro in 2023 and for the years to come.”

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