Jair Messias Bolsonaro, 66, president of Brazil, took the first step on Tuesday to run for the 2022 elections. The far-right, who had been without a party for two years, has joined an acronym of the old politics, which presides over a corrupt convict, after failing the attempt to create a tailor-made, more ideological formation. It is the ninth party in which he plays. Neither Bolsonaro nor Lula have formalized their candidacies for now, but both are in the campaign. And the incorporation of the former judge Sérgio Moro gives him an added curiosity to the race.
Eleven months remain until the elections – they are in October, two rounds away – and the Brazilian ruling class is in effervescence. Everything is read in electoral code. Lula multiplies contacts in search of allies in the center right while tweeting the achievements of the four terms of the Workers’ Party, Bolsonaro has moderated the tone and goes from inauguration to inauguration while Moro has just published a book where he gives his version of his entry and exit of the ex-military government.
The affiliation act was held in Brasilia. “We snatch Brazil from the left. Green and yellow predominate over red ”, said Bolsonaro in his speech. The applause has been lukewarm. His son Flávio, senator, who has also taken the floor as a new member, is the one who has served as the clan’s pit bull. Bolsonaro Jr. has raised the conservative credentials of the family, the defense of arms and has attacked his father’s main adversaries: “We are going to defeat the virus, any traitor and any nine-fingered thief,” he proclaimed in reference to Moro and Lula, who lost a little finger when he was a turner. Flávio Bolsonaro has shaken the former magistrate much more than the previous president. Moro is a direct rival who woos the repentant bolsonaristas.
For the first time, a survey has measured the impact of Moro’s entry into the dispute, which removes votes from the president. Lula is still in the lead (42%), followed by Bolsonaro (31%) and Moro (13%) before a first round, and would win any of them in the second, according to the Atlas poll released on Tuesday. Anyway, there are always surprises. Ask Bolsonaro, who saw how Lula was removed by the judges of the previous election, or Lula, whose sentences have been overturned.
The retired captain disputed the 2018 elections with an antipolitical speech, against the caste, against the corrupt who look out for their own interests and not those of the people. With his affiliation to the Liberal Party (PL), Bolsonaro buries that rhetoric and returns to what in Brazil they call the center (the great center), a constellation of formations without ideology led by caciques who give parliamentary support in exchange for public office with juicy budgets. Next to Bolsonaro at the event, the president of the PL, a symbol of the political class he promised to eliminate: Deputy Valdemar da Costa Neto, convicted and imprisoned in the scandal monthly, a plot in which the PT paid bonuses to parliamentarians in exchange for votes. Bolsonaro’s new party has 43 deputies and four senators, including former soccer player Romario.
Faced with the growing wear and tear due to the pandemic and the economic crisis, Bolsonaro has had to resign from the most ultra and ideological wing of his Government to replace them with representatives of the center. These partners, in addition to paving the way for their legislative projects, close the doors to a impeachment. The center he has always been there, ready to help the incumbent president and collect the favor.
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With his sights set on his most loyal followers, Bolsonaro has dedicated his speech to justifying this political contortionism: “Nobody does anything alone, and everything is possible. The future belongs only to God ”. The hard core of the Bolsonaristas, those who forgive even chaos in managing the pandemic, often take refuge in conspiracy theories. His argument is that Bolsonaro has the will to clean up politics, but hidden forces prevent him from doing so.
The next president will receive a country in deep crisis. Inflation (10.7%) exceeds double digits for the first time in a quarter of a century, workers’ income has fallen and unemployment is falling (12,%) but there are more than 13 million unemployed. Bolsonaro’s new program against poverty, which replaces Bolsa Familia and is called Auxilio Brasil, has already started to pay off. The intention is to increase the pay and reach millions of new beneficiaries, but it remains unclear how that will add up to the public accounts. Bolsonaro is putting all his efforts because it is his main asset to get votes in the northeast, a poor region where the PT has maintained its primacy even in the worst moments.
Hatred of former President Lula has tempered and both Bolsonaro and Moro have more detractors. It is likely that the next presidential elections will be decided in Brazil more by rejection than by affinity. On the flank of foreign policy, the environmental issue increases the pressure on Bolsonaro. And the recent 22% increase in deforestation further complicates the tortuous process of ratifying the trade agreement signed between Mercosur and the European Union.
Although he changes parties, Bolsonaro maintains his electoral motto: “Brazil above all, God above all.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.