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article imageBrazil presidential candidates slug it out on Twitter

By Louis GENOT (AFP)     Oct 17, 2018 in World

Brazil's two candidates vying for the presidency, far-right Jair Bolsonaro and leftist Fernando Haddad, have taken to Twitter to trade campaign blows in the absence so far of any televised debate ahead of an October 28 run-off election.

In the exchange late Tuesday, Haddad tried to taunt Bolsonaro into engaging in TV debates, hoping to close a big lead enjoyed by the far-right candidate.

"Tweeting and online lives are easy, Mr Congressman. Let's debate face-to-face, politely, in the sick bay if necessary," Haddad said on his Twitter account.

The tweet was in response to one by Bolsonaro calling Haddad a "corrupt man's puppet," referring to his having replaced former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was barred from running while serving a prison sentence for corruption.

Six televised debates were scheduled between the October 7 first round -- which Bolsonaro won handily, with 46 percent of the vote to Haddad's 29 percent -- and the run-off October 28.

But Bolsonaro skipped the earlier debates on the advice of doctors who said he had not sufficiently recovered from a stabbing while campaigning on September 6.

Bolsonaro has said avoiding further debates might be a "strategic" choice for him. He already enjoys a big lead in the polls over Haddad and has millions of followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

- 'Waiting for you' -

Brazil's presidential candidate for the Workers' Party (PT)  Fernando Haddad
Brazil's presidential candidate for the Workers' Party (PT), Fernando Haddad
NELSON ALMEIDA, AFP

Haddad, a 55-year-old former mayor of Sao Paulo and education minister under Lula, believes he would have the upper hand in a debate with Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro, 63, is a veteran lawmaker who went to military school and was a captain during Brazil's military dictatorship that ended in 1985. Light on the issues, his campaign has been buoyed by pithy phrases and online attacks on Haddad, Lula and their leftist Workers Party.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro observed that Haddad had frequently visited Lula in prison.

"Each week you go and see someone who is in prison for corruption and to get your orders. Watch out, given where new revelations are going you could be next," he tweeted.

Haddad replied by posting an image of a television studio organized for debates with the message:" I'm waiting for you here, congressman."

The last major voter survey, by the Ibope institute, showed Bolsonaro the big favorite with 59 percent support, against 41 percent for Haddad.

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