When the Supreme Court ordered investigations against 108 politicians – from all the main parties – it ignited a debate around next year’s general election. Which presidential hopefuls, if any, will make it to 2018 as competitive candidates?
After all, the latest scandal in Brazilian politics hasn’t spared any of the major parties. Everybody has received dirty money from Odebrecht to illegally finance their campaigns. In exchange, politicians acted as lobbyists for the company in Congress. Moreover, some of the presidential candidates were personally hit and are now under investigation.
Since 1994, the presidential election was disputed between the Workers’ Party, at the left of the center, and PSDB, a center-right group.
PSDB’s three last presidential candidates are now under investigation. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has accused them of benefiting from illegal campaign funds and accepting bribes.
Senators José Serra and Aécio Neves, who ran for president in 2010 and 2014, respectively, are all but out of the race. São Paulo’s Governor Geraldo Alckmin, the party’s candidate in 2006, is also in a difficult situation.
In the Workers’ Party, which occupied the presidency between 2003 and 2016, former Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff are under scrutiny. According to former Odebrecht executives, the company set aside $13 million (40 million BRL) to pay for Lula’s expenses once he left the presidency. The money came from contracts between Odebrecht and Petrobras.
During Dilma Rousseff’s presidency, the Ministry of Finance became a corruption center. Former Finance Minister Guido Mantega allegedly asked for 50 million BRL to pass a piece of legislation renegotiating the fiscal debt of an Odebrecht subsidiary.
Who’s not on the list?
At this point, not being under investigation becomes an asset more important than the candidates’ program. In PSDB, São Paulo’s Mayor João Doria surfaces as the leading man. Doria acted quickly to capitalize on the scandal, saying that it hit the “political class” as a whole. But the mayor is not a politician, according to his marketing team. He’s an administrator.
Other potential right-wing candidates are Salvador’s Mayor Antonio Carlos Magalhães Neto and Senator Ronaldo Caiado. Despite being mainstream politicians, they are not under investigation.
Among the top candidates during the 2014 race, only Marina Silva (3rd place) has escaped the scandal. However, she has limited electoral potential.
If Lula’s candidacy is damaged, then radical Ciro Gomes becomes the most competitive name on the left. However, the mercurial politician could have problems forming a coalition.
Last but not least, the radical right-winger Jair Bolsonaro gained from the scandal. His name is not on any list of politicians who received bribes. Bolsonaro also surfs on the anti-establishment wave that the case generates.
If we haven’t spoken about President Michel Temer’s party, PMDB, that is because this political family is compromised from top to bottom. The president himself took part in shady deals, but he enjoys “temporary immunity.” Meaning: he can’t face charges for crimes committed before his inauguration.
At this point, PMDB serves more as a hidden ally in a supporting role.