It is not common for a political official to switch parties while in office. It is even less common for a political official to create a party and convert to it while in office. The incumbent Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, has done exactly that. Bolsonaro, who left the Social Liberal Party (PSL) party on Wednesday, announced yesterday that he is launching and joining his own party, the Alliance for Brazil (APB). His historic announcement took place at a hotel in the nation’s capital of Brasilia. Bolsonaro announced that his new party would have similar ideals to the PSL, with emphasis on Christian values and fighting corruption. Bolsonaro’s exit from his now-previous party came after an extended argument with the party’s founder and co-President, Luciano Bivar, “over control of campaign funds” (BBC).
Jair Bolsonaro is a controversial political figure. He has been criticized greatly by his opponents and analysts alike due to his right-wing beliefs. Bolsonaro is notable for his inclusion of Christian right values in his politics, including his extreme oppositions to same-sex marriage and abortion. He is also anti gun-control, a belief of his that is not helped by Brazil’s stance as #7 on the world crime index (Numbeo). Bolsonaro has also been public on his admiration towards the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. Many comparisons between the two, both politically and personality-wise, have been made by political analysts. Bolsonaro has also been on record making “racist, homphobic, and misogynistic remarks” during his political tenure (BBC). The President, who has held the position since the beginning of this year, believes the creation of the APB gives Bralizian people “the opportunity to unite all Brazilians of good faith for the future of our fatherland” (BBC).
Bolsonaro was elected in Brazil’s 2018 general election. The election four years prior saw the reelection of the then-incumbent President Dilma Rouseff. However, just a year into her 2nd term, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies began impeachment proceedings on the President under charges of misuse of the nation’s economy through fiscal pedaling. Rouseff was suspended from her position in May of 2016 before being removed outright three months later. Then-Vice President Michel Temer would hold the position of President of Brazil until the end of 2018.
The Brazilian general elections runs every four years and determines a plethora of government positions, such as President, Vice President, members of the National Congress, and other local positions, such as governors and legislative assemblies. The President and Vice President elections operate off of a two-round system where if a candidate takes more than 50% of the vote in the first round, they are declared President. If not, the top-two candidates advance to a second round. Bolsonaro, under the PSL at the time, dominated round one with 46% of the vote; the only other candidate who came close was Fernando Haddad of the Worker’s Party (PT) with less than 30%. Bolsonaro and Haddad advanced to the second round of voting due to Bolsonaro’s failure to reach a 50% threshold. The second round of voting saw Bolsonaro take Brazil with 55% of the vote, thus making him President of Brazil.
Bolsonaro’s campaign, as well as the leadup to the election in general, was not without its ups and downs. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (or Lula), who served as the President of Brazil from 2003-2010, desired to run for the position he previously held. However, the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil denied Lula’s candidacy due to corruption charges against him. The candidacy of the Worker’s Party also underwent scrupulous hearings, but were later allowed to run a candidate as long as it was not Lula. The party ran Fernando Haddad instead. Bolsonaro’s campaign was not without its troubles as well. No incident could have been worse however than when in early September, just a month before the election, he was stabbed during a rally while in a crowd of supporters. Bolsonaro would miss the remaining debates as a result but would make a full recovery.
Bolsonaro’s campaign during the leadup to the election was focused almost primarily around his devout Christianity. His campaign was presented under the slogan “Brazil above everything, God above everyone.” Bolsonaro would flash finger-guns at his supporters, a gesture that would become one of his signature traits. He also spoke very liberally about his violent opposition towards the Brazilian Worker’s Party. His claims on the party included death threats and comparisons to terrorists. While he gained a lot of support through his faith and integration of religion into the government, Bolsonaro was also lauded for his many controversial comments. Some believed, however, that those derogatory comments only fueled his campaign and made him more viable as the possible Brazilian President. Bolsonaro says things as he sees them and does not hold back to the chagrin of many and the overwhelming support of others.
Are boisterous and outspoken comments viable means of gaining support in an election? As previously mentioned, many have compared Bolsonaro to Donald Trump. The similarities are actually very authentic. They are both known for gaining heaps of support through derogatory, and sometimes inappropriate, comments. They both have vehement hatred of their opposite party. One major difference between the two though is that Trump still greatly supports his party. However, with the current impeachment hearings, there are talks of members of Trump’s own party possibly going against him in order to remove him from office. Could we see Trump pull a Bolsonaro and create his own party? Probably not. However, there is no denying that if the two are destined to have similar trajectories, expect impeachment hearings for Bolsonaro to begin soon.
BBC. “Brazil’s President Bolsonaro Launches New Political Party.” BBC News, BBC, 21 Nov. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-50507996.
Numbeo. “Crime.” Crime Index by Country 2019 Mid-Year, 2019, www.numbeo.com/crime/rankings_by_country.jsp.
Bloomberg. “Brazil Election Results.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 2018, www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-brazil-election/.