2022 Race

Court decision to scramble Brasília governor’s race

brasília arruda
José Roberto Arruda is polling second for governor of Brasília. Photo: Pedro Ladeira/Folhapress

The Superior Court of Justice, Brazil’s second-highest judicial body, issued an injunction on Wednesday allowing a former governor of the nation’s capital, Brasília, to run for office again. José Roberto Arruda, a member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party (PL), could threaten incumbent Ibaneis Rocha if he carries out his plan to enter the governor’s race.

The ruling, penned by the court’s presiding justice, Humberto Martins, suspends the effects of two corruption convictions against Mr. Arruda. In 2009, he was caught on tape receiving a stack of cash from the president of a local government-owned company. 

The scandal led to his arrest in February 2010 and an electoral court later removed him from office.

Justice Martins argues that recent changes easing malfeasance laws could benefit the former governor, so Mr. Arruda should be allowed to enter the elections. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in August on whether the changes can be applied retroactively. 

A recent poll shows Mr. Arruda would qualify for a runoff election against incumbent Brasília Governor Ibaneis Rocha, despite his massive fall from grace. Still, Mr. Rocha has the inside lane in a head-to-head dispute. 

A gubernatorial bid, however, would put the plans of Mr. Arruda’s wife, Congresswoman Flávia Arruda, on the back burner. Until recently, Ms. Arruda served in the Jair Bolsonaro cabinet and intended to run for a Senate seat — but may be forced to settle for a new term in the House to avoid rattling local allies.