Brazil – First 2022 Election Forecast

Brazil – First 2022 Election Forecast

As the end of 2020 approaches, incipient forecasts about Brazil’s 2022 general election scenario start emerging. As the recent years — and even months — have insistently shown, new facts can easily move the needle towards unforeseen directions, which demands continuous monitoring and analysis. As of December 2020, however, these are the main insights for a forecast on the outcome of Brazil’s 2022 election for President.

Scenario 1: Bolsonaro is Reelected

The most likely scenario still points to President Bolsonaro’s reelection. So far, the main driver of this trend is that no opposition group has been able to rally a competitive and organised political coalition against Bolsonaro’s agenda. In the meantime, and contrary to initial assessments, the COVID19 pandemic has not significantly damaged the President’s approval ratings, which actually increased during the period. Bolstered by such ratings, and despite being elected as a polarising outsider back in 2018, Bolsonaro has managed to build a pragmatic alliance with the establishment of Brazil’s National Congress (“Centrão”), at least around the political stability of his administration. Furthermore, like in most presidential regimes, the incumbent President of Brazil leverages considerable political power to the detriment of any challengers: no President has ever lost a reelection bid. 

Reelection will mean the continuation of Bolsonaro’s administration policies. As such, the agricultural industry will likely remain the backbone of the government’s economic strategy. The privatisation program focused on infrastructure projects and assets will likely remain the flagship of the government’s investment strategy, even though the specific privatisation agenda of public companies has not produced any concrete results as of yet.

Simultaneously, controversial environmental policies will keep hindering the country’s international positioning as a global hub for sustainable investment — even if Environment Minister Salles is replaced — , e.g., hampering Mercosur’s trade agreement with the European Union. Corruption scandals will continue to embarrass the President and his family, especially his eldest son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro from Rio de Janeiro.

Recent statements by the President indicating that he was still not sure about running again in 2022 are extremely misleading and must be interpreted as mere distractions from the Federal Government’s controversial measures, such as its mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic policy response, or its choice to neglect the spiking deforestation in the Amazon, or the structural economic meltdown of the country. Finally, the vast support that Brazilian conservatism currently enjoys in public opinion might likely lead to a plethora of similar right-wing candidacies, formally competing against Bolsonaro at least in the first round of the election, which would hinder any chances of Bolsonaro winning reelection without a second round. 

Scenario 2: The Opposition Wins

In the second most likely scenario, Bolsonaro is replaced by one of the leaders in the opposition. The critical medium-term trend towards this scenario is the imminent end of the government’s monthly focalised emergency aid of BRL 600 (around USD $100) to Brazil’s lowest income population, which threatens the government’s approval ratings. On the electoral front, the outcome of Brazil’s regional elections for Mayors and City Councillors in 2020 have boosted Bolsonaro’s adversaries, as candidates backed by the President’s allies have lost in electorally crucial cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Belém and Recife. 

On the ideological front, Donald Trump’s defeat also represents a significant blow to the morale of Bolsonaro, his supporters, and their rhetoric. Former President Trump’s tactic of making baseless claims of election fraud might possibly inspire Bolsonaro in the same direction in 2022 if the President believes his reelection bid will likely fail in the polls.

While it remains unclear who the strongest challenger to Bolsonaro will be, the main players as of now are former Governor of Ceará Ciro Gomes (PDT), Governor of São Paulo João Doria (PSDB), former Justice Minister Sergio Moro (no party yet), TV host Luciano Huck (no party yet) and former President Lula, which will possibly pick Governor Rui Costa or Senator Jacques Wagner — both from the state of Bahia — as his Worker’s Party (PT) candidate for President. 

More left-wing candidates, such as Ciro Gomes and Lula’s candidate stand for a new developmentalist mindset, mobilising government spending towards infrastructure projects and antagonising Brazil’s financial industry. More right-wing candidates such as Huck, Doria and Moro stand for a more liberal economic agenda focused on addressing the government’s fiscal challenge to the detriment of public spending. 

Regardless of the outcome in 2022, Brazil’s prolonged economic crisis forces upon candidates the issue of economic recovery as the top priority in the electoral agenda — unlike the 2018 election in which corruption, violence, and moral issues were at the centre. In that context, consensus already exists on the return to more pragmatic and trade-focused diplomacy, an environmental policy that complies with international standards, especially for the Amazon region, and an economic policy strategy for increasing Brazilian productivity.

Categories: Latin America, Politics

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