Under the pressure of the COVID crisis in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro is required to join a party to run in elections next year.
Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has officially joined the centre-right Liberal Party (PL) ahead of next year’s presidential elections in the South American nation.
Bolsonaro, who has been without a political party since 2019 and failed to collect enough signatures to register himself, formally became a member of the PL on Tuesday.
“It’s a simple event, but very important so that we can compete for something later,” he said during a ceremony at a hotel in the capital, Brasilia.
Participation in the 2022 elections requires Bolsonaro to join a party in which he is expected to face a tough challenge from leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
In 2019, Bolsonaro left the Social Liberal Party (PSL), with which he had won the presidency a year earlier, after conflicts with the party’s leadership.
The PL is part of the “Centrao”, an ideologically fluid coalition of parties that struggle for power and appointments, and has 42 seats in the 513-member Chamber of Deputies.
Joining the PL reinforces a political shift by the far-right leader, who, when elected in 2018, presented himself as an outsider in opposition to “old school politics”.
Bolsonaro has since aligned with “Centrao”, whose votes in Congress have helped him pass legislation and avoid dozens of impeachment petitions filed against him by opponents.
The PL is the ninth party Bolsonaro has joined in his 30-year political career.
The 66-year-old president has faced months of pressure by his government over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 613,000 people in Brazil, as well as criticism for alleged involvement in corruption – allegations he denies Is.
In late October, a Senate commission approved a report investigating the government’s handling of COVID-19, indicting Bolsonaro of nine crimes related to the crisis, including crimes against humanity.
The president’s popularity has plummeted to a low of 22 percent, but he will rely on the new coalition to help him defeat Lula, his main potential rival, in next year’s race.
Lula has not officially announced his candidacy, but opinion polls show he has a solid lead over Bolsonaro. Earlier this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling overturning the former president’s previous corruption sentence, allowing him to present his candidacy next year.