The leading candidate in Brazil’s presidential election is in a serious but stable condition after being stabbed at a campaign rally, doctors said.
Jair Bolsonaro, 63, was stabbed in the city of Juiz de Fora, about 200km north of Rio de Janeiro, on Thursday.
The far-right presidential candidate underwent emergency surgery for a wound in the abdomen and could take two months to fully recover, said Dr Luiz Henrique Borsato, who operated on the candidate.
“His internal wounds were grave and put the patient’s life at risk,” Borsato said.
Bolsonaro is expected to spend at least a week in hospital, he added.
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Videos shared on social media showed Bolsonaro, whose agenda includes cracking down on crime in Latin America’s largest country, being carried through a crowd by his supporters when he is suddenly stabbed with a knife to the lower part of his stomach.
The attacker was arrested right away.
He was identified as Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, 40, who said he was “carrying out a divine mission, a mission from God”, according to Luis Boundens, head of a union of federal police officers.
Oliveira was affiliated with the leftwing Socialism and Liberty Party from 2007 to 2014, the party said in a written statement, in which it repudiated the violence.
Authorities are investigating the suspect’s mental health, police said.
Bolsonaro is the frontrunner in the first-round of the presidential elections next month with 22 percent support, according to a poll published by the Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics (IBOPE), a private media company in Brazil.
It was the first public opinion poll since former president and popular leftist, Luiz Inacio da Silva, was barred from running by Brazil’s electoral court on September 1.
Lula, who was previously leading the opinion polls, is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for fraud related to a corruption scandal.
Bolsonaro, described a right-wing nationalist and populist, has caused a number of controversies in recent years, saying in 2015 that he didn’t believe men and women should not receive equal pay because women become pregnant and other similar “homophobic” comments.
Under Brazilian campaign laws, Bolsonaro’s tiny coalition has almost no campaign time on government-regulated candidate ad blocs on TV and radio.
That means he relies deeply on social media and raucous rallies around the country to drum up support. If Bolsonaro is not able to go out in the streets, it could jeopardise his campaign.
But Flavio Bolsonaro, the candidate’s son, said early Friday outside the hospital where his father was treated that he was conscious and the attack was a political boost.
“I just want to send a message to the thugs who tried to ruin the life of a family man, a guy who is the hope for millions of Brazilians: You just elected him president. He will win in the first round,” he said.
Bolsonaro’s rivals in the race expressed outrage at the attack.
Fernando Haddad, who will likely replace Lula as the Workers Party presidential candidate, said the stabbing was a “shame” and a “horror.”
President Michel Temer and Bolsonaro’s electoral rivals Ciro Gomes, Marina Silva, and Geraldo Alckmin all expressed disdain of the violence.
Haddad has also been charged with corruption and came in last with six percent in the Ibope poll, which, however, also found that a third of Brazil’s population is undecided.
Brazil’s first round of voting will take place on October 7.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies