A consortium of Brazil’s biggest mainstream media outlets announced a presidential debate to be held on September 14, with the four best-positioned candidates in the polls.
The announcement comes days after CNN Brasil suspended its planned August 6 debate, after former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and President Jair Bolsonaro — the only candidates polling above 10 percent — refused invitations. TV Bandeirantes, which traditionally opens the debate season in Brazil, moved its showdown from August 14 to 28 as a way to buy time and get the frontrunners to join.
President Jair Bolsonaro has said on previous occasions he will only show up to debates before a potential runoff election — similar to what Fernando Henrique Cardoso did in 1998 (Mr. Cardoso ended up winning in the first round) and Lula in 2006.
Both Lula and Mr. Bolsonaro have reportedly imposed conditions on broadcasters to take part in debates, infuriating their other competitors. For instance, Mr. Bolsonaro wants to avoid facing questions from “hostile” journalists. Both he and Lula want outlets to band together as a way to limit the number of debates.
Polling way ahead of the competition, Lula and Mr. Bolsonaro plan on limiting their exposure to criticism, believing they have more to lose by taking part in debates. The center-left former president wants to avoid bad press and clinch a first-round landslide, while Mr. Bolsonaro needs to improve his image among voters in order to force a runoff.