By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With only six months to go before this year’s presidential election, at least sixteen candidates have publicly announced they are in the race. Among those vying for the top political position in Brazilian politics are senators, deputies, former cabinet ministers and even a former Supreme Court Justice and an impeached President.
A poll taken by Datafolha last week shows jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as the lead contender by far in the race with at least 30 percent of the intended votes. The candidacy, however, is subject to the approval of the courts, since under the Ficha Limpa (Clean Slate) law convicted persons may not run for public office.
The PT (Workers Party) has stated that it will insist on launching the former two-time president to once again lead the country, claiming the charges and conviction against him were a ploy to prohibit him from running.
Two other pre-candidates registered above ten percent intention votes on the Datafolha poll, one from the far right and one from the left.
Jair Bolsonaro, former military official and seven-time federal representative, is considered by many as the most controversial candidate in this election. Bolsonaro is pro-gun, against LGBT groups, against same-sex marriages, and has praised known torturers during Brazil’s military dictatorship.
He has been described by local media as being a sexist and a racist, but has found support from middle-upper class Brazilians, tired of corruption scandals and who see him as fighting against the current political elite. Last week Brazil’s General Attorney charged Bolsonaro with inciting hate against blacks, indigenous, women and homosexuals.
“We have purposes, project and everything to start changing Brazil. We are from the right (wing), we respect the Brazilian family. It is in the Constitution that marriage is between man and woman and period,” said Bolsonaro during his PSL party affiliation ceremony earlier this month.
On the other extreme of the spectrum is environmentalist Marina Silva, the vice-presidential candidate who was catapulted into the presidential race when the head of her ticket, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a helicopter accident weeks before the race.
The former senator and Environment Minister for the Lula administration, Silva is seen as a strong contender for left-wing voters, who, without Lula, may migrate to Silva’s corner.
“I am a pre-candidate for the Presidency to unite the Brazilians in favor of Brazil. The rulers need to do what is best for the country and not what is best to perpetuate in power. Enough of thinking only of personal interests and partisans,” she wrote in her social media account recently.
Contenders with some chance of making it to the second round of voting also include two-time presidential candidate and São Paulo governor, Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of Ceará, Ciro Gomes, current Chamber of Deputies Speaker, Rodrigo Maia, and former Supreme Court Justice, Joaquim Barbosa.
Former impeached president, Fernando Collor de Mello has also stated he plans to announce his candidacy by August.
In the beginning of October more than 144 million Brazilian voters will go to the polls to choose their next president. If no single candidate is able to garner more than 50 percent of the valid votes, there will be a second round of elections at the end of October with the two top placed candidates.
Political parties must announce their candidates until the beginning of August.