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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

A Year from Election, Brazilians Search for Scandal-Free Candidates

BRASILIA Ė With the presidential election just a year away, a non-stop barrage of corruption scandals in Brazil have made it difficult for voters to find candidates completely free of suspicion.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was a popular head of state when he was in office from 2003-2010 and remains Brazilís most recognizable political figure, is the favorite in all the polls ahead of the October 2018 balloting.

But amid numerous corruption indictments he also is the potential candidate with the highest unfavorable rating.

Lula, the possible standard-bearer of the center-left Workersí Party (PT), has been convicted of receiving an apartment as a bribe in one of his corruption cases, some of which stem from a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.

He is free pending an appeal but would be ineligible to run if that conviction is upheld by a higher court next year. Lula vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

But the situation is even more dire for Brazilís other major parties.

Polls show the corruption scandals have dealt a severe blow to the image of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), one of whose possible candidates, Sao Paulo Gov. Geraldo Alckmin, is suspected of benefiting from the Petrobras scheme and has an investigation pending in the Supreme Court.

Another possible PSDB candidate, Sen. Aecio Neves, is worse off and has been provisionally suspended from his seat in Congress for allegedly receiving bribes from meatpacking giant JBS.

The countryís leading political force, the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), has not fielded a presidential candidate since 1994 and is in crisis with all of its leaders under investigation by the Supreme Court.

President Michel Temer, who came to power when his predecessor, the PTís Dilma Rousseff, was ousted via an impeachment process, appears to have the votes in Congress to avoid losing his immunity from prosecution on corruption charges related to schemes involving JBS.

But he is Brazilís most unpopular head of state on record, with a miniscule approval rating.

Amid this corruption-marred political landscape, some possible candidates unaffiliated with the traditional parties have emerged, including federal lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro, an army reservist who has spoken out in defense of the 1964-1985 right-wing military dictatorship and is the face of the anti-globalist, nationalist segment of Brazilís political class.

Some polls show the 62-year-old right-wing firebrand, a member of the Social Christian Party (PSC), with 20 percent of voter preference and growing support.

But even though he is not facing corruption allegations, he has not been free of legal problems.

In a court ruling published earlier this week, Bolsonaro was ordered to pay a 50,000-reais ($16,000) fine for making racist comments at a political event.


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