For an outsider, who was elected to the presidency with the promise of removing the corrupt system of government it was an extraordinary change of heart. Brazil’s extreme right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro took to the stage in the crowded arena in Brasilia to declare his return to the center of political power. After a prayer of an evangelical congressman asking for God’s blessings, the once-popular iconoclast took the stage to discuss why he joined the Liberal party which is Brazil’s third-largest in terms of the number of lawmakers.

“I was born among your people,” Bolsonaro told a group of lawmakers about his time in Congress. “I feel at home here.” Behind Bolsonaro’s warm words on November 30 lay an uncomfortable fact: less than a year before what promises to be a bitterly fought election, the man who ran for president as an outsider promising to shake up the political establishment had now embraced it wholeheartedly. Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with other people is a violation in violation of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Contact licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers are able to share 20 or 10 articles per month by using the gift article service. Further details is located here.

While no candidate has been officially announced in the presidential election of October 2022, the race is likely to be a battle between the former army captain and a sexy ally of religious conservatives against the one-time president and icon for the left, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for the presidency of Latin America’s largest economy. The incumbent Bolsonaro has been on the edge. His treatment of the pandemic has come in the spotlight following the fact that Brazil was one of the highest death tolls due to coronavirus.

The rising cost of living is affecting the incomes of the most disadvantaged and the economy is in a sluggish state. The approval rating of the government has been lowered to below 20 percent in the first instance in its history, according to an Atlas survey. A poll conducted by Datafolha last week revealed that Lula has a lead of 26 points over Bolsonaro and is likely to be the winner of the presidential election during the initial round, if it were to be held today. Use the sharing tools accessible by clicking the share button located at the top or the side of the article.

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In the midst of a difficult battle to regain his seat and without any party of his own after he quit in 2019 of the rightwing Partido Social Liberal under whose banner the election was held, Bolsonaro was running out of options to access the state’s generous funds and campaign airtime that is available to established parties in the 2022 elections. He picked a party that represented the “old political system” which he had promised to eradicate.

The Liberals make up a significant component of the “Centrao” also known as the “big middle” bloc of traditional political parties that have been ruling Brazil’s Congress for many years, providing support to presidents of different political stripes, in exchange for budgetary heft and posts in government. Bolsonaro was previously very critical of the system. In the video from his campaign in 2018, Bolsonaro denounced the policy of naming ministers in accordance with particular political party interests in a way that was “guaranteed not to be successful” and also stated: “We will name the appropriate people for the right posts. This is why we aren’t one part of Centrao”.