2022 Race

Ciro Gomes halts presidential bid in protest against own party

ciro gomes Presidential hopeful
Presidential hopeful Ciro Gomes. Photo: Jaélcio Santana/FP

As we explained in today’s edition of the Brazil Daily newsletter, the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) broke ranks with the opposition and lent its partial support to a government-sponsored bill capping court-ordered debt repayments scheduled for next year. Fifteen of the party’s 24 lawmakers voted in favor of the proposal, which passed by a margin of just four votes. The bill is pivotal to ensuring enough funds for President Jair Bolsonaro’s new cash-transfer scheme — which will be used as an electoral tool.

In reaction to the defections, Ciro Gomes — who plans to run for president in 2022 — announced on Twitter that he is suspending his candidacy. “We can’t collude with [Jair] Bolsonaro’s farce and mistakes,” he wrote. “Social justice and the defense of the poor can’t be mistaken for corruption, cheap pork-barrelling, defaults, breaking contracts, and shaking the country’s constitutional foundations.”

He said he hopes the party will not repeat the same behavior in a second-round vote on the bill later this week.

However, Mr. Gomes’s reaction should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is less about moral indignation than it is a carefully crafted political move, catering to left-wing voters. Mr. Gomes has tried to tread a fine line and pander to moderate voters both on the left and right.

If it works, he will be able to present himself as the alternative to Mr. Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who leads the polls. If it doesn’t, he could lose support from both sides, repeating the decline of former Environment Minister Marina Silva — who in 2010 got 19 percent of votes, but in 2018 only mustered 1 percent.