Evangelical voters are expected to play a decisive role in Brazil’s Oct. 7 presidential election as new rules ban corporations from making direct contributions in the wake of a graft scandal. With their numbers and clout growing, and the “evangelical bloc” in Congress accounting for 15% of federal lawmakers, evangelical supporters have become the focus of leading candidates.
One of the frontrunners was photographed weeping at a church service while another promised to keep the country’s abortion ban in place.
“The evangelical vote is very organic in that pastors and bishops have a relationship with followers that influences how they vote,” author Antonio Lavareda was quoted as saying.
“It’s the opposite of the Catholic Church, where, despite having more congregants, priests have less direct influence,” added Lavareda, who has written extensively on Brazilian politics.
Brazil has the world’s most Catholics – 123 million according to a 2010 census – while evangelicals now number 42 million, or 20% of the population.
Yet they helped ouster former president Dilma Rousseff in 2016 for illegally managing the federal budget and are widely credited with installing Marcelo Crivella, a bishop in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, as the mayor of Rio de Janeiro that year.
The founder of Crivella’s church, Edir Macedo, is also the owner of one of the largest broadcasters in Brazil, hinting at their strong media influence.
Meanwhile, pastor Silas Malafaia recently told the Associated Press he has helped elect 25 representatives and five senators backed by the 50-plus churches under his jurisdiction.
“I help candidates get elected by lending them my image and words,” he said, adding this year he is supporting far-right congressman and former army captain Jair Bolsonaro.