Grand Prix tug-of-war sparks premature battle for 2022 election

. Jul 09, 2019
doria bolsonaro f1 grand prix dispute F1 Grand Prix tug-of-war sparks premature battle for 2022 election João Doria (L) and President Bolsonaro

It’s never a good sign when a president, in his first year in office, feels the need to publicly lay out his plans for re-election. Former President Michel Temer first discussed potentially standing for another term in March 2018, seven months before the election. Before him, Dilma Rousseff only admitted her push for re-election in May of 2014. Jair Bolsonaro, however, has already set his stall out for the 2022 election, six months into his term.

As we have seen, Jair Bolsonaro is no typical president. In fact, he’s the least popular president in Brazilian history at the six-month mark of his term. A recent Datafolha poll shows that while 33 percent of the population class his presidency as “good or great,” another 33 percent regard it as “bad or terrible,” giving him the highest disapproval ratings at this stage out of any of his predecessors.

</p> <p>It is in this context that during a visit to his hometown of Eldorado in June, Mr. Bolsonaro declared his intention of running for a second term in 2022, unless a &#8220;good political reform&#8221; is approved until then. &#8220;If the people want it, we&#8217;ll be here to continue for another four years,&#8221; he said. &#8220;In the future everyone will vote [for me], I am sure of that.&#8221;</p> <p>Besides insecurity over his polling numbers, however, Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s rush to cement his position for 2022 has another motive: clipping the wings of João Doria, the governor of São Paulo with his eye on the big job.</p> <h2>The break-up</h2> <p>Jair Bolsonaro and João Doria were close allies until recently, but the approximation of the latter was always seen as more of a relationship of convenience than any great feelings of trust. In the 2018 elections, João Doria capitalized on the nationwide fame of Mr. Bolsonaro to push his own campaign for the São Paulo governor&#8217;s job.</p> <p>In fact, despite his Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) having its own candidate for the presidency in 2018—Mr. Doria&#8217;s mentor-cum-enemy Geraldo Alckmin—João Doria openly campaigned for Jair Bolsonaro, even distributing material to voters with the slogan &#8220;Bolsodoria.&#8221;</p> <p>For his own chances in São Paulo, this perceived alliance with Mr. Bolsonaro was crucial for João Doria to win the governor&#8217;s job, beating Márcio França in a runoff. Political pundits, however, were under no illusions that the Bolsodoria shtick would last.</p> <h2>The presidential F1 Grand Prix</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image alignnone size-full wp-image-20366"><img src="" alt="f1 sp interlagos" class="wp-image-20366" srcset=" 984w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 984px) 100vw, 984px" /><figcaption>The São Paulo Interlagos F1 race circuit</figcaption></figure> <p>The spark for this premature election jostling was an unusual one. With São Paulo&#8217;s contract to host the F1 Brazilian Grand Prix coming up for renewal, <a href="">President Bolsonaro inexplicably decided to wade into the subject</a> and claimed there was a &#8220;99-percent chance&#8221; that the race would be moved to Rio de Janeiro as of 2021, despite the city not even having a functioning race circuit.</p> <p>Being one of the biggest events on São Paulo&#8217;s calendar, João Doria hit back furiously at the president&#8217;s claims, sparking a war of words between the two.</p> <p>After hearing plans for Rio de Janeiro to build a F1 circuit in the western neighborhood of <a href="">Deodoro</a>, Mr. Doria jokingly invited the press to take a trip to the region to see it with their own eyes. &#8220;You won&#8217;t be able to get there, there are no roads, you can only get there on horseback,&#8221; he quipped. &#8220;There is nothing there, no access, no electricity, no sanitation.&#8221;</p> <p>He also called into question Rio de Janeiro&#8217;s ability to work with the private sector to fund such an event. &#8220;[São Paulo] knows how to raise funding from the private sector. Look at the Museu do Ipiranga and the Museu Nacional—one is in ashes and the other has BRL 220 million in the bank,&#8221; he said, referencing Rio&#8217;s Museu Nacional which burned down in September 2018.</p> <p>In response, Jair Bolsonaro directly mentioned his adversary&#8217;s presidential push. &#8220;The press is saying that [Mr. Doria] will run for president in 2022, therefore he has to start thinking about Brazil, instead of just his own state.&#8221;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image alignnone size-full wp-image-20367"><img src="" alt="rio f1 race park" class="wp-image-20367" srcset=" 1155w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1155px) 100vw, 1155px" /><figcaption>The Rio F1 circuit project</figcaption></figure> <h2>Defections from the Bolsonaro camp</h2> <p>Indeed, even though we are over three years away from the next presidential election, João Doria&#8217;s early push for recognition is building some steam. Businessman Paulo Marinho, one of the main backers of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s election campaign and the president of the PSDB in Rio de Janeiro, has already switched his allegiances to João Doria.</p> <p>Speaking to newspaper <em>Estado de S.Paulo</em>, Mr. Marinho claimed that Mr. Doria was always his preferred candidate, but in his absence, Jair Bolsonaro was the best chance &#8220;to defeat the Workers&#8217; Party.&#8221;&nbsp;</p> <h2>Not so fast, Doria</h2> <p>There are several factors lining up favorably for a João Doria presidential push in 2022. Besides his own personal desire for the job, he is now the president of the PSDB, one of the most traditional parties in Brazil. Furthermore, he has been constructing an alliance with House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, currently the main power broker in Brasilia.</p> <p>However, his party colleagues are apprehensive at how quickly this subject has come under the public microscope, fearing the Doria wave may end up peaking far too early. The top brass of the PSDB have asked for caution from Mr. Doria, advising him to pull back from directly attacking President Bolsonaro, or his sons, for fear that their social media legions could deal a fatal blow to the image of the São Paulo governor.</p> <p>This also touches on the biggest problem of a potential João Doria candidacy. Outside of the Rio-São Paulo axis, he is virtually unknown. While previous PSDB candidates Geraldo Alckmin and Aécio Neves had some (albeit not much) recall outside of the Southeast, Mr. Doria has nothing of the sort. Meanwhile, even farmers in the most remote parts of Amazonas state know Jair Bolsonaro—and many of them are big fans.

Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at