BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro will join the center-right Liberal Party (PL), the party’s leader Valdemar Costa Neto said on Monday, aligning forces ahead of the president’s re-election bid next year.
Bolsonaro confirmed his intention, telling supporters “it might happen as soon as this week.”
It was Bolsonaro’s first step toward building a campaign for the election next October, when he is likely to face off against former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Neither has officially declared their candidacy.
“All our members are committed to receiving the president,” said PL Senate leader Wellington Fagundes after meeting with Bolsonaro. He said affiliation should take place on Nov. 22.
Bolsonaro, who has relied on social media to rally his base, has no political party at the moment, after quarreling with the leaders of the small party that he joined to win office in 2018.
The Social Liberal Party (PSL) emerged from obscurity to become the second-largest party in Congress on the Bolsonaro bandwagon, as Brazil’s electorate shifted right after 13 years of government by Lula’s Workers Party (PT).
But Bolsonaro fought with PSL leadership over control of the party’s coveted campaign chest and quit the party in 2019.
Costa Neto last month invited Bolsonaro and his three sons to join the party. Bolsonaro said recently he was also being courted the center-right Progressives (PP), whose leader Ciro Nogueira is presidential chief of staff.
Sources in the PL party told Reuters that the vice presidential candidate on a Bolsonaro ticket could come from the PP party.
Bolsonaro turned to more established center-right parties to avoid impeachment and is joining one of them as his popularity drops due to rising inflation and his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Brazilians.
Opinion polls on the presidential race have shown Lula with a comfortable lead, although surveys show his advantage narrowing.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Writing by Anthony Boadle; editing by Grant McCool and David Gregorio)