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This is Brazil | A Messy Dispute For President In 2022

Yes, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Yes, we have a crisis and are facing more than 2,000 deaths per day. Yes, we don’t have enough vaccines. Yes, we are talking about 2022 polls.

On a Monday, March 8, the Supreme Court minister Edson Fachin annulled all of the convictions against former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva (PT). The judge declared that the previous magistrate of the cases against Lula was not able to infer on the case. That returned his political rights and made him able to run for office. There is no need to say that this turned everything upside down in an already messy topic – and overtook all the main news, overshadowing the pandemic. 

On tone of campaign, the decision was celebrated by supporters and by those who wish to take Jair Bolsonaro out of the job in the next year. The attorney general appealed the decision, so all the ministers of the supreme federal court must approve the decision of Fachin, which may delay the actual confirmation of the candidature.

Until that, the former president is already speaking with the public. On March 10, Lula gave a speech with a conciliatory tone, making criticisms about Bolsonaro’s politics, saying: “This country does not take care of the economy, of the jobs, of the wages, of health, environment, education, youth or of the girl from suburbs. In other words, what do they take care of?”. He also made a counterpoint against the president, stating that would take the vaccine. He was in a campaign mode, though saying that “this is not time to ‘waste energy’ thinking about the electoral dispute”.

Everyone was affected by this news. On the other hand, Sérgio Moro, former Justice minister and famous judge of operation Lava Jato, who was judging the convictions against Lula, is also a possible candidate, with intentions to do so since the resignation from the Bolsonaro government in 2020, and a strong candidate even with some of those who voted in Bolsonaro in 2018.

However, the recent decisions about PT’s leader may be bad for a future campaign. Now, he will be tried for possible suspicion (when the judge is biased during the trial) in the case of the former president.

João Doria, the representative of PSDB (Partido Social Democrata Brasileiro) in São Paulo, had indications of a possible candidature openly discussed, even – and obviously – in the middle of a fight for vaccines with the federal government.

coronavirus vaccine
Photo by Hakan Nural from Unsplash

Doria, who never hid his intentions of running for president in 2022, launched his campaign in the middle of this turmoil, but some in his party do not defend the political opposition of PSDB against Bolsonaro. One of them is Eduardo Leite, governor of Rio Grande do Sul, who is conquering support and is a possible option for the 2022 presidential race, even though he does not appear in any of the polls. Both are right-wing choices, opposing the extreme right position of Jair Bolsonaro.

After March 8, the governor started to admit that might run for reelection in São Paulo, not for president anymore. The change may be a signal to parties of the so-called center, in a way of not imposing his name among the candidates, although it is kind of impossible not to consider him, even if he is overshadowed now by the Lula X Bolsonaro dispute.

Another widely rumored candidate is Luciano Huck, a Brazilian host. His name has been mentioned since the 2018 election when he denied that would run. Now, his name is almost definitive while he is searching for a party. Considered an option in the center, he is appearing slowly in the news, writing opinion articles and columns in the country’s main newspapers. He has been even criticized by Flávia Lima, ombudsman of Folha de São Paulo, that says that there is a lack of interviews with him, despite his many appearances.

All of the above, Moro, Doria, and Huck fit in the group called Center. They are considered an alternative against both Bolsonaro and Lula, but they don’t have any definitive candidate, and lots of names are appearing. Some other possible names are Ciro Gomes (PDT), former candidate in 2018, Luiz Henrique Mandetta (DEM), former health minister in Jair Bolsonaro’s government, who emerged as a candidate after he left the post in April 2020, and even Luiza Trajano, owner of the Magazine Luiza store franchise, but she showed no indications of running.

President Jair Bolsonaro remains a strong candidate for 2022. The recent events put him on alert. He is now accumulating 60% of rejection in Atlas research and is almost tied with Lula da Silva on a March 12 poll by XP/Ipespe – Bolsonaro with 27% of votes followed by Lula (25%), Sérgio Moro (10%), Ciro Gomes (9%), Luciano Huck (6%) and João Doria (3%).

There was a twist in Bolsonaro’s  speech after the decision in favor of the former president, and it is crystal clear. He started defending the vaccines – in other times he denied that would take them, and even refused to buy them -, launching a charge showing Zé Gotinha (mascot of the vaccination program in Brazil) holding the syringe like a machine gun, with the sayings “Our weapon is the vaccine”. With pressures, he is now possibly changing the minister of health, Eduardo Pazuello, for example.

Yes, it is a lot going on. Everything was affected by the decision about former president Lula. Nothing is certain. The next chapters will tell us, while the mood for 2022 is being built. The actual race has not even begun, but it is already a very pulverized dispute, with maybe higher stakes for the candidates than the previous one.


The article above was edited by Gabriela Sartorato.

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