Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched a new, populist party

By Bruno Carazza, Brazilian political and economic analyst.


On November 19th, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro officially pulled himself out of his former party, the Social Liberal Party (PSL, according to its initials in Portuguese). It was not an unusual act for him. During his 30 years long political career, he has changed parties in nine occasions. This time, however, he intends to create a party for his private benefits.

After a series of disputes with the PSL traditional leader, Luciano Bivar (a representative from Pernambuco State), regarding campaign financing and even accusations of misuse of public funds, Jair Bolsonaro has decided to create a new party, the Alliance for Brazil. The chosen name, by the way, is full of meanings which can explain what Bolsonaro’s intentions are.

The new party has been known as just Alliance, and this word has two main references in Brazil’s political history and current society. During the Brazilian military dictatorship, the National Renewing Alliance was the denomination for the government’s conservative party – in fact, before being a politician, Bolsonaro was a retired Army captain during that time. Moreover, alliance also has a strong religious meaning – the relationship among God and his people, as told in the bible. Indeed, neo-pentecostal churches are the most vibrant religious groups in Brazil nowadays, with an increasing number of devotees among poor and middle classes.

“Our Alliance is celebrated with families, good people, workers, businessmen, militaries, religious people and with everyone which desires a real strong and independent Brazil”, claims the new party’s manifesto. “Much more than a party, it is a dream and an inspiration from people loyal to President Jair Bolsonaro to gather the country with patriotic ideas”.

Since Bolsonaro left a lackluster position in the House of Representatives to put himself as the leader of a right-wing shift in Brazilian politics, he has adopted populist strategies. He frequently employs aggressive speeches against his opponents and uses massively the social medias – fake news spreading included. Thus, the creation of a new party with personalist colors is an important leap forward.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian President, and his wife, Michelle Bolsonaro in July 2019. Image: Marcos Corrêa/PR

According to the Alliance’s launching document, their values are “freedom, prosperity, education, ethics, meritocracy, transparency, respect to the law, safety and equality”. Therefore, Bolsonaro’s new party aims to reach “working and honest people”, promising them to live in peace in Brazilian violent towns.

This speech can be seen as common sense and populist. Nonetheless, the President has proved that he is a clever strategist. No other Brazilian politician was so successful in understanding the population fears and aspirations after the huge street protests in 2013 as Bolsonaro, especially after Lava Jato, the huge corruption scandal that has shaken up the political structures in Brazil. By mixing up a conservative discourse with anticorruption exhortations against traditional politicians – remarkably criticising former Presidents Lula and Dilma, from the Workers Party –, Jair Bolsonaro won the Presidential election in 2018 against all odds.

Ironically, in 2017, a poll conducted by Fundação Perseu Abramo, a research institution linked to the Workers Party, found a shift in the preferences of habitants from São Paulo’s poor suburbs, a former stronghold from the most important Brazilian leftist party. According to the poll, besides a better welfare State, impoverished people now welcome liberal values, as individualism, entrepreneurship and meritocracy. This new conception, the study concludes, is related to the spread of neo-pentecostal churches and their moral as well as their capitalist protestant ethic.

Despite those findings, the Workers Party has not changed its political platform. As a consequence, its candidates are losing support in the big cities from the South and Southeast regions – the most populated and richest areas in Brazil. Bolsonaro, however, has understood the winds of change, and with his new party plans to captivate hearts and souls from this rising social segment of Brazilian society.

According to the electoral legislation, the Alliance for Brazil has until April to collect almost 500 thousand supporting signatures to be registered in Electoral Courts and, thus, participate in 2020 municipal elections. Even though this is a very difficult task, it will be no surprise if Bolsonaro achieves this goal. Along with his ability to manage an army in social medias – the new party has already reached more than 200k supporters on Facebook and almost 150k on Twitter -, the President will also count on churches that share his views about law, order and morality.

Bolsonaro’s political future still relies on the success of his government – and its capability to handle economic and social achievements is far from being clear. But the truth is that no other Brazilian politician is being so effective to speak directly with this affluent electorate nowadays.