The proliferation of political parties in Brazil’s coalition system means that normal government tends to give way to a melee of alliance-brokering, feints and manoeuvres of candidates, and kite-flying once Brazil’s 2018 election is in sight.
The distractions are greater than usual this time around because of the corruption allegations facing President Michel Temer and many of his closest allies. Former allies with their own presidential ambitions have distanced themselves from Temer in the 2018 election race, and he is left to decide between the seemingly hopeless choice between running for another presidential term or backing his finance minister, Henrique Meirelles.
The next few months will probably show that neither man has a chance of winning office in the 2018 election. It will also rule out the still popular former president (2003-2011) Luiz Inácio da Silva (a.k.a. Lula), whose conviction for corruption is now valid for the purposes of electoral law, even though some appeal routes are still available to him.
The coming months will probably confirm São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin (Brazilian Social Democracy Party – PSDB-SP) and chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia (Democrats – DEM-RJ) as the main options for a centre-right candidate in the 2018 election.
A failure of the two men to form an alliance before the October 2018 election could allow a populist candidate to slip into a second-round run-off, whether this is the right-wing Partido Social Liberal (PSL) Jair Bolsonaro; or Ciro Gomes — the left leaning Partido Democrático Trabalhista (PDT) candidate. The latter’s campaign has been boosted by the decision of former agriculture minister Kátia Abreu to join the PDT party ticket. In addition, moves to turn former Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa into a candidate could throw up a strong outsider.
Against this backdrop, the wheels of government turn less and less, as seen with the collapse of the proposed reform of the public pensions system. The promised privatisation of Eletrobras is likely to be the next victim.