One by one, outsiders leave Brazil’s 2018 presidential race

. May 09, 2018
joaquim barbosa One by one, outsiders leave Brazil’s 2018 presidential race Barbosa was the only true outsider in the presidential race
joaquim barbosa One by one, outsiders leave Brazil’s 2018 presidential race

Barbosa was the only true outsider in the 2018 presidential race

If you follow Brazilian pundits, you’ve probably heard that Brazil’s 2018 presidential race would be the election for outsiders. First, there was the Luciano Huck phenomenon. The TV presenter’s name started popping up and he became the belle of the ball for center-right parties. But eventually, he chose not to leave his comfortable life for the ugliness of the political battlefield. The latest to leave the presidential race is now former Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, who has recently decided not to pursue candidature.

Barbosa declared his decision via Twitter, without offering much of an explanation:

joaquim barbosa tweet 2018 presidential race

After several weeks [reflecting upon a presidential candidacy], I’ve reached a conclusion. I do not intend to run for President. The decision is a strictly personal one.

Without so much as raising a finger to please potential voters, Barbosa figured into the polls by winning as much as 10 percent of voting intentions. Only two candidates (besides Lula, who is in prison and will likely be out of the race) were polling better than Barbosa: far-right Congressman Jair Bolsonaro and former Senator Marina Silva. Former São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, however, appeared with no more than 7 percent of voting intentions.</p> <h3>Who can win over Barbosa’s would-be voters?</h3> <p>Barbosa was considered a threat to both center-right and center-left candidates. Among all potential candidates that could run for the country’s highest office, Barbosa distilled many symbols into one name.</p> <p>Like Lula, his story is that of a self-made man, someone who swept floors in his youth but rose on his own merits to become the first Afro-Brazilian person ever nominated to the Supreme Court. Yet unlike Lula, Barbosa also symbolizes the fight against corruption.</p> <p>He was the judge responsible for the most emblematic anti-corruption trials in Brazil’s political history, sending several high-profile members of the Workers’ Party to jail. At the same time, he voiced his caustic criticism against Michel Temer and Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process.</p> <p>While many pundits say that Ciro Gomes, Marina Silva, and Geraldo Alckmin will inherit Barbosa’s votes, it will prove easier said than done. As <a href="">wrote</a> political scientist Carlos Melo, a professor at São Paulo’s Insper Business School, it’s a mistake to imagine Barbosa’s potential voters as a homogeneous pack. “The most probable reality is a split in those votes.”</p> <p>In fact, Barbosa’s withdrawal benefits Ciro, Marina, and Alckmin only in the way that they won’t have an additional obstacle towards a spot in the runoff stage. But to win it all, they will need much more than that.</p> <h3>Who loses with Barbosa’s withdrawal?</h3> <p>His party seems to be the biggest loser from this whole affair. Barbosa, an irascible man, would be a difficult candidate to handle. But his magnificent poll numbers gave the party enormous leverage to negotiate its support with bigger political groups. Without a possible game-changing candidate up its sleeves, the Brazilian Socialist Party should be reduced to its actual size: a mid-tier party without much say in national politics.</p> <p>Barbosa knew the difficulties he would face had he remained a candidate. His touchy character and utmost disgust for professional politicians would eventually get the best of him. With Dilma Rousseff, Brazil found itself contending with a similar president – and we all know how well that worked.</p> <p>However, the former Chief Justice’s decision means that there will be no room for renewal in the 2018 presidential race. Although voters don’t trust political parties, nor traditional politicians, they will be yet again forced to pick a candidate from a group of old-timers.

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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