2022 Race

Under pressure, Bolsonaro lays groundwork to skip 2022 debates

debates presidential race
First televised debate in 2018. Photo: Kelly Fuzaro/Band

President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he intends on joining the 2022 presidential debates, but added a caveat that makes it nearly impossible for him to keep his pledge: he won’t accept questions about his family and friends. “It is for discussing my accomplishments as president,” he told a friendly interviewer. “I won’t accept taunting nor personal questions as they veer from the purpose of debates.”

Mr. Bolsonaro’s entourage, however, faces multiple allegations of corruption and malfeasance — including all of his adult sons. For a president elected on an anti-corruption platform, the topic would be near impossible to avoid.

In 2018, Mr. Bolsonaro said he wanted to take part in runoff debates, despite enjoying a comfortable lead against center-left candidate Fernando Haddad. He later claimed he was still recovering from a near-fatal stabbing attack earlier in the campaign, and skipped them — making that race the only one in Brazilian democratic history without runoff debates.

In 2006 and 2014, incumbents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff faced their challengers — and won a second term.

New polls show that Mr. Bolsonaro’s popularity continues to sink. Per PoderData, only 22 percent of voters believe he is doing a “good or great” job. His net approval ratings are negative in all regions, age brackets, and levels of formal schooling. He could become the first Brazilian incumbent to lose a re-election race.