Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has officially joined the centre-right Liberal Party (PL) in advance of next year’s presidential elections in the South American nation.
Bolsonaro, who has been without a political party since 2019 and failed to gather enough signatures to register his own, formally became a member of PL on Tuesday.
“It is a simple event, but very important so that we can compete for something later,” he said during a ceremony at a hotel in Brasilia, the capital.
In 2019, Bolsonaro quit the Social Liberal Party (PSL) with which he won the presidency a year earlier after a conflict with the party’s leadership.
PL is part of the “centrao”, an ideologically fluid coalition of parties that vies for power and appointments, and it holds 42 seats in the 513-member Chamber of Deputies.
Joining PL cements a political shift by the far-right leader, who presented himself as an outsider opposed to “old-school politics” when he was elected in 2018.
Bolsonaro has since struck up an alliance with the “centrao”, whose votes in Congress have helped him pass legislation and fend off from the dozens of impeachment petitions opponents have filed against him.
The PL is the ninth party Bolsonaro has joined in his 30-year political career.
The 66-year-old president has faced months of pressure for his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 613,000 people in Brazil, as well as criticism for alleged involvement in corruption – accusations that he has denied.
In late October, a Senate commission investigating the government’s handling of COVID-19 approved a report that called for Bolsonaro to be indicted for nine crimes related to the crisis, including crimes against humanity.
The president’s popularity has plummeted to a low of 22 percent, but he will count on the new alliance to help him defeat his main likely opponent, Lula, in next year’s race.
Lula has not officially announced his candidacy, but public opinion polls suggest he has a solid lead over Bolsonaro. Earlier this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling annulling the former president’s previous corruption convictions, allowing him to present his candidacy next year.