Poll Update: Brazil's Uncertain Presidential Race 

By Luisa Leme

With four months to go until election day, a Datafolha poll shows a jailed ex-president ahead. What happens if he can’t run remains in doubt. 

With four months to go until Brazil’s presidential election, Latin America’s biggest economy still doesn’t have a defined field of candidates. Ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—who leads with 30 percent of voter intention per a June 10 Datafolha poll— is in jail for corruption but is still considered a potential Workers’ Party (PT) candidate. If he doesn’t run, the number of voters who don’t express a preference for a candidate rises to one third. Datafolha also shows that, without Lula, a significant number of people say they will annul their ballots. Taken together, numbers for null votes and undecideds are higher than preferences for any other candidate.

Amid this uncertainty, the leading candidate in a scenario without Lula is the Social Liberal Party’s (PSL) Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing congressman and former army captain who has raised his national profile by making incendiary statements, such as openly cheering dictatorship and publicly insulting women. Former Environmental Minister and founder of the Sustainability Network (REDE) Marina Silva comes in second, and polls indicate the one-time presidential candidate and centrist choice would beat Bolsonaro in a runoff. She would also win a second round against Geraldo Alckmin, a former São Paulo governor from the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB). Polling fourth is Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT), who has served as a mayor, congressman, governor, and finance minister, and ran for president in 2002.

In a scenario in which Lula can’t run, his endorsement is valuable: 30 percent of respondents say they would vote for his choice. In contrast, an endorsement from current President Michel Temer could complicate things for a candidate.