Explaining Brazil #30: The downfall of Brazil’s center-right

Between 1994 and 2014, two groups dominated Brazilian politics at the national level: the Workers’ Party, to the left of the center, and the Social Democracy Party, to the right of the center.

At first, the center-right seemed to be the dominating force. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso won two elections without the need of a runoff stage. In 1995, a member of the cabinet even said that the Social Democracy Party would rule the country for at least 20 years. After eight years, though, the party was removed from power – as Brazilians chose to elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2002.

And since then, they have only been competitive once, in 2014. Senator Aécio Neves was close to snatching the presidency after a hard-fought campaign against then-president Dilma Rousseff, but he fell just short. Senator Neves seemed like the future of the country’s center-right.

Now, many of the party’s leaders are either tarnished by corruption or have fallen into obscurity. The Workers’ Party and Lula remain the dominant force to the left, but the center-right was kicked to the curb by Jair Bolsonaro and his extreme politics.

How did a party that was Brazil’s dominant force just 20 years ago get so derailed?

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On this podcast

Gustavo Ribeiro has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets, including Veja, Época, Folha de São Paulo, Médiapart and Radio France Internationale. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Abril Prize for outstanding political journalism. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

Diogo Rodriguez is a journalist and social scientist. He has contributed to publications such as Folha de S. Paulo, Estado de S. Paulo, Trip, Vida Simples, Galileu, Mundo Estranho, Exame, and Vice, among others. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in political science at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo.

This podcast was produced by Maria Martha Bruno. She is a journalist with 14 years of experience in politics, arts, and breaking news. She has collaborated with Al Jazeera, NBC, and CNN, among others, and worked as an international correspondent in Buenos Aires.

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