Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga was the keynote speaker in a government-held event in his home state of Paraíba. During his speech, he defended President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration’s pandemic response — one day after a Senate committee accused Mr. Bolsonaro of nine crimes, including crimes against humanity. Senators also recommended the indictment of Mr. Queiroga for crimes of malfeasance and helping to cause a deadly epidemic.
A defiant Mr. Queiroga said there are no corruption accusations involving cabinet members. He also said that all vaccines administered in Brazil were brought to the country by the federal government, which is not true. The Chinese-made CoronaVac — which accounts for 31 percent of jabs in Brazilians’ arms — was brought to Brazil by the São Paulo state government, in spite of the federal administration.
“We are completing the task [of defeating the coronavirus] the president bestowed upon us,” said the minister. The event served as a political rally to teach Mr. Queiroga the ropes of campaigning. He is among several government officials who were propelled to fame (or infamy, depending on your point of view) by the pandemic and who are expected to fight for office in 2022.
It remains undecided whether Mr. Queiroga will run for the Senate or the Paraíba governor’s office. His predecessor Eduardo Pazuello is also likely to compete in next year’s elections, despite overseeing an unmitigated pandemic disaster during his tenure in the cabinet. Mr. Pazuello initially wanted to fight for a Senate seat, but allies believe he has little chance of winning, advising him to stand for Brazil’s lower house instead.
Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco is set to announce that he will leave the right-wing Democratas party to join the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) during a ceremony in Brasília next week. The move could be the first step toward a presidential bid for the PSD, though Mr. Pacheco has not confirmed his electoral intentions.
The PSD’s invitation to Mr. Pacheco occurred months ago, amid speculation that the Senate President could be an option to run against incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in next year’s election. The party’s initial plan is to launch him as a third-way candidate, offering a more central alternative former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Mr. Bolsonaro — the current frontrunners.
Mr. Pacheco’s Democratas party is on the cusp of merging with the Social Liberal Party to create a new right-wing group: União Brasil. However, the new party will already feature a number of potential presidential candidates — such as former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta and TV presenter José Luiz Datena — encouraging Rodrigo Pacheco to seek pastures new.
At 64 years old, Mr. Datena is the anchor of Brasil Urgente, arguably Brazil’s most popular true-crime daytime show. As such, he enjoys incredible name recognition in the country, one of the most valuable assets a candidate can have in Brazilian politics.
He has toyed with the idea of entering politics before, but never pulled the trigger. “Today, I am the only presumed candidate for the [Social Liberal Party], and I will remain as such,” he told the magazine.
On Thursday, however, Mr. Datena denied he intends to leave his job at the Bandeirantes media conglomerate. On his daily radio show, he denied any intention to resign — except if necessary due to electoral laws, and only “right before the campaign.” He dismissed any other piece of information as “fake news” perpetrated by “scoundrels.”
Mr. Datena’s party is on the verge of merging with fellow right-wing group Democratas, creating what could become the largest party in Congress. In potential future primaries, he could face Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco and former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta. “If the party holds primaries, I’ll beat them,” he told radio listeners.
A recent poll by Quaest shows Mr. Datena polling at 11 percent, only behind former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and President Jair Bolsonaro. However, his numbers dip among better-educated voters.
“I will run for president if this new party doesn’t abandon me,” he said, with many interpreting this as Mr. Datena’s way to give himself an escape clause. He has been accused in the past of using his electoral appeal to squeeze his employers for more pay — he currently earns one of the highest salaries in Brazilian television.
Brazilian center-right party Democratas moved one step closer to confirming its merger with the Social Liberal Party (PSL) ahead of the 2022 elections. Senior party officials approved the proposal after a meeting in Brasília. Only Labor Minister Onyx Lorenzoni and delegates from the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul voted against the move.
The PSL followed suit and did the same. One month from now, the two parties will hold a joint convention to tie the knot. The process will only be finalized after approval from electoral courts, which should take roughly three months.
As things stand, the two groups hold 82 of the lower house’s 513 seats, combined. However, one concern regarding the merger is that whenever parties are created or absorbed into another, there is a window of opportunity for members to switch their allegiances without risk of losing their seat. While President Bolsonaro has long since cut his ties with the PSL, 30 of the party’s 54 lower house representatives are loyal to the far-right leader and may seek to jump ship.
Democratas leaders say the new entity will be called União Brasil (Brazil Union) and will go by the number 44 on Brazilian voting machines.
Since entering electoral politics in 2016, businessman João Doria has set his eyes on the presidency. Every election since — from the São Paulo mayoral dispute in 2016 and the gubernatorial race two years later — were mere stepping stones toward his ultimate goal. But polling in the low single-digits one year away from the election, Mr. Doria now admits to the possibility of putting his dream on hold.
“All of us presidential hopefuls [wishing to break with the dichotomy of former President Lula and President Bolsonaro] must have the humility to drop out, if necessary, to rally around a potential winner,” he told weekly magazine Veja, adding that, even if he is not that “possible winner,” he would not seek re-election.
Late in November, Mr. Doria’s Brazilian Social Democracy Party will hold its presidential primaries. Governor Doria and Eduardo Leite, his counterpart from Rio Grande do Sul, are the two frontrunners. But neither seems poised to win against Lula, the center-left icon who has extended his early lead in overall polls.
In an attempt to stop hemorrhaging support, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro reportedly plans to galvanize conservative voters by embarking on an agenda related to social customs and behavior. A mainstay during his 2018 election campaign, Mr. Bolsonaro promised moves to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16, lift gun controls, and oppose any form of medicinal cannabis use in the country. For a certain slice of the electorate, these proposals resonated.
But in 2021 Brazil, voters have more practical things on their minds.
A poll conducted by AP Exata and commissioned by weekly magazine Veja shows that day-to-day problems take precedence for the Brazilian population, with households battling high unemployment, spiraling inflation, and the rise of extreme poverty.
Regardless, the president’s latest platform consists of packing high courts with conservative judges. Elsewhere, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on previously hot-button social issues such as the decriminalization of cannabis and abortion rights.
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 thename 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:
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.