Brazil's Bolsonaro 'serious' after knife attack

Madureira market in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil's far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who leads opinion polls ahead of the October vote, was stabbed during a rally on Thursday afternoon and is being treated in hospital.

During an event later in the nation's capital, Brazil's President Michel Temer said that "the intolerance that there's been in Brazilian society is unacceptable". O Globo newspaper reported that he was wearing a bulletproof vest, but was wounded just below it.

"He underwent surgery, which was successful and he is doing OK", Mourao said.

He has also courted deep controversy with comments attacking women and sexual minorities, as well as for praising the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

The only Brazilian politician now more popular is the leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is in prison for corruption and has been banned from competing in October's election. If Bolsonaro is not able to go out in the streets, it could jeopardize his campaign.

"This incident increases Bolsonaro's election chances", said Richard Back, head of Latin America political strategy at XP Investimentos. The comment prompted an immediate rebuke from the attorney general, who asked Mr. Bolsonaro to explain that comment.

Fernando Haddad, who is expected to take da Silva's place on the Workers' Party's ticket, called the attack "absurd and regrettable".

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The other presidential candidates were also reportedly quick to denounce the attack.

"Politics is done through dialogue and by convincing, never with hate", tweeted Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of Sao Paulo who has focused negative ads on Mr. Bolsonaro.

In March, while da Silva was on a campaign tour in southern Brazil before his imprisonment, gunshots hit buses in his caravan.

Earlier this year, Marielle Franco, a Rio city councillor who was an outspoken critic of police violence against slum residents, was assassinated.

Bolsonaro has 22 percent of first-round vote intentions, more than 10 percentage points ahead of his closest rivals, according to an Ibope poll released this week.

Bolsonaro, a former military man and lawmaker, has been criticized for outbursts deemed racist, mysogynist and homophobic.

"It's likely that Bolsonaro will use the attack to argue his opponents are desperate, that they had no other way to stop him", said Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro's state university.

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