Brazil's Far-Right Candidate to Skip Debate to Focus on Rallies

(Bloomberg) -- Former Army captain and presidential hopeful Jair Bolsonaro may sit out future election debates, in a strategy aimed at shoring up his position in the polls.

All future requests will be reviewed in "good faith" providing they do not conflict with his agenda, Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter on Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day he told local media that he would participate in just three more televised debates. The candidate will not take part in the upcoming Aug. 27 candidates debate, a spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Following the last debate on Aug. 17, local papers published a photo of talking points Bolsonaro had scrawled on the palm of his hand, while a clip featuring rival Marina Silva attacking him over gender equality went viral. Speaking on Thursday a spokesperson for the campaign denied that the rethink had anything to do with criticism of Bolsonaro’s performances, saying that rallies are a more productive use of his time than "tiresome" debates.

The far-right congressman’s decision has less to do with his performance than strategy, according to Brazilian political consultant Paulo Kramer. "He’s trying to shore up the advantage he has in the polls. This is part of the game," he said. "The big question is to what extent can Bolsonaro compensate for his absence in debates and minimal TV time with rallies and get-out-the-vote marathons?"

In polls which exclude former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro leads the pack, with 22 percent of voting intentions in the latest Datafolha opinion poll. However, his rejection rating has also risen to 39 percent in August from 32 percent in June.

The decision to avoid debates is not without precedent. In 2006 Lula declined to attend the final debate, hosted by Brazil’s biggest media conglomerate Globo. Lula cited his desperate adversaries’ virulence as the reason for his absence, according to local media reports at the time.

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