Explaining Brazil #152: A president without a party

Jair Bolsonaro has seen his popularity dip in recent months, now polling behind Lula. But he has an even more immediate concern: the president needs to find a party

Back in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro promised that — if elected president — he would not seek re-election, even pledging to support a bill outlawing consecutive terms for heads of executive branches. However, just months after settling in the presidential palace, he began talking about re-election, promising to rule the country for eight years.

Blocking Mr. Bolsonaro’s path to a second term are two obstacles: (1) the resurgence of left-wing icon Lula has put Bolsonaro second in the polls; and (2) the fact that the president doesn’t belong to a political party — and Brazilian elections do not allow for independent candidates.

Meaning that, before trying to overcome Lula, Mr. Bolsonaro will have to pick a new party and settle down. But that is easier said than done.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:

Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Deezer


  • Beatriz Rey is a research fellow at the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University and a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. She is also a columnist for The Brazilian Report.
  • Euan Marshall is an editor at The Brazilian Report and also hosts the Explaining Brazil podcast in the absence of Gustavo Ribeiro.

Background reading:

  • Follow our Covid-19 live blog to keep up to date with the most important news related to the pandemic in Brazil and Latin America. And our Insider Live Blog, with the most relevant pieces of news on Brazilian politics.
  • Full of authoritarian symbolism, Jair Bolsonaro’s Alliance for Brazil party intended to shake up the status quo in Brazilian politics. It was an utter failure.
  • President Jair Bolsonaro may be using opaque (yet legal) budgetary grants for securing congressional support. But local media has struggled to explain the irregularities involved in the scandal — Beatriz Rey sets the record straight.
  • A Supreme Court justice has been accused of taking bribes in exchange for altering sentences. Though lacking in detail, the accusations may prove explosive. Accusations against a Supreme Court justice can bolster anti-democratic rhetoric.
  • The Brazilian president has a lot on his plate right now, with the resolution of the 2021 budget, a crucial climate summit, and a Senate investigation into the government’s pandemic response. Can his administration survive? Episode #148 tries to answer that question.

Do you have a suggestion for our next Explaining Brazil podcast? Drop us a line at [email protected]

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.