2022 Race

The Brazilian Report launches 2022 election live blog

Voters will head to the polls one year from today. But the 2022 race has already begun

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President Jair Bolsonaro meets with his supporters — a group growing smaller and smaller. Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

On October 2, 2022, nearly 146 million Brazilians will head to the polls to select who will be their president until 2026. They will also pick 27 senators (one-third of the 81-seat upper chamber), 513 representatives, and 27 state governors. And while the polls will open only a year from now, make no mistake: the 2022 election has already begun.

President Jair Bolsonaro, the incumbent facing an uphill battle for re-election, is traveling the country constantly to meet voters and present them with projects and policies to win their hearts and minds, seeking to create a positive news cycle around his otherwise embattled presidency. Since late last year, Mr. Bolsonaro’s rejection rates have steadily increased, with each new poll suggesting his chances of getting another four years are dwindling.

Meanwhile, his biggest nemesis, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is quietly working behind the scenes, trying to weave alliances that will make him the name to beat Mr. Bolsonaro. After governing Brazil for eight years — and during the 2000s commodities supercycle — Lula enjoys massive name recognition and popularity, especially among lower-income voters. If the elections were held today, no candidate would be able to beat him.

But, of course, the elections are not today.

With that in mind, several other candidates from the center-left and center-right are jostling for space as a third-way alternative, a term which in Brazil essentially encapsulates anyone not named Lula or Jair Bolsonaro. They want to profit from the sizable rejection rates that both frontrunners face — but have so far failed terribly to enthuse voters. 

None are polling above 10 percent, not nearly enough to mount a challenge against the two most popular (and simultaneously unpopular) politicians in Brazil.

Here are the main candidates from that neither-nor camp for the 2022 election:

Ciro Gomes

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Ciro Gomes is trying to pivot from the center-left. Photo: André Carvalho/CNI

A seasoned politician, Mr. Gomes has already served as a federal representative, governor of the northeastern state Ceará, and he served in Lula’s cabinet. He is the main figurehead of the center-left (but increasingly centrist) Democratic Labor Party, the PDT. 

  • He has run for president three times before, never winning more than 12.5 percent of votes. This time around, Mr. Gomes is trying to marry his left-leaning background with more conservative undertones. This pivot was orchestrated by João Santana, Brazil’s most decorated political marketing guru (who did time for laundering campaign money) — who previously worked for Lula.

João Doria

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Governor João Doria of São Paulo. Photo: Govesp/FP

Since entering electoral politics in 2016, running for mayor of São Paulo, Mr. Doria has only had eyes for one goal: the Brazilian presidency. He resigned from City Hall in 2018 to successfully run for São Paulo governor, being handed the keys to a state that has a larger population (and economy) than many countries.

  • During the pandemic, Mr. Doria was the first politician to bring Covid vaccines to Brazil, inking a deal with China’s Sinovac to purchase CoronaVac. From the early stages of the spread, Mr. Doria sought to provide a counterpoint to President Bolsonaro’s pandemic denialism, trying to present himself as a true statesman. 
  • But despite his laudable efforts, there is little enthusiasm around Mr. Doria as a presidential candidate — neither from voters (who often see him as an opportunistic phony) nor political allies (who don’t see him as trustworthy).

Eduardo Leite

Eduardo Leite. Photo: Valter Campanato/ABr
Eduardo Leite. Photo: Valter Campanato/ABr

The first-term governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Mr. Leite has become notable for managing to pass austerity reforms and privatizations during his tenure. He also gained fame after coming out as gay earlier this year. Just like João Doria, Mr. Leite is a member of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and will fight him for the party’s nomination.

  • The PSDB primaries are scheduled for November 21 and 28 (in case a runoff is necessary).

Sérgio Moro

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Sergio Moro remains the face of Operation Car Wash. Photo: Marcelo Chello/Shutterstock

The former lead judge of the Operation Car Wash anti-corruption task force, Mr. Moro briefly served as Justice Minister under the Bolsonaro administration. He resigned last year, accusing the president of trying to tamper with federal probes. 

  • The former judge and minister has been coy about his ambitions, but allies told Brasília correspondent Amanda Audi that he has made up his mind about running for Brazilian politics’ top job.
  • Mr. Moro has a personal history with Lula, convicting him of corruption and money laundering — and playing a key role in Lula’s incarceration and exclusion from the 2018 election. The former president got the last laugh, though, after the Supreme Court quashed the convictions, declaring that Mr. Moro was biased during the case. All evidence gathered under Mr. Moro’s watch was also thrown out for the same reason.
  • He now hopes that the voters will avenge him.