THE stabbing of a leading Brazilian presidential candidate has the potential to reshape the election contest after dramatically exposing the polarisation in Latin America’s largest nation.

Far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro was seriously injured after he was stabbed in the abdomen during a campaign event.

The Social Liberal Party candidate, who is currently recovering in hospital, has promised to crack down on crime, and has argued that Brazil is in chaos and needs a strong hand.

“They made Bolsonaro a martyr,” said Jonatan Valente, a student who joined a small vigil for Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo.

“I think the left shot itself in the foot because with this attack they will end up electing Bolsonaro.”

A suspect, identified by authorities as 40-year-old Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, was arrested within seconds, though no motive has been found.