Could Evangelical Christians Soon Be Running Brazil?

An election banner that reads "Pastor Silas Malafaia votes, councilman Alexandre Isquierdo, 25025, we are one", pictured in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterdayReuters

Evangelical Christians are expected to influence big advances in local elections in Brazil this weekend.

Evangelicals and their favoured candidates at the polls are benefiting from a recent ban on companies funding election campaigns in Brazil.

Individuals are still allowed to make personal donations to election campaigns.

Brazil's massive evangelical revival that has taken off in the last decade in particular is now seeing influential pastors directing their congregations, who often number many thousands, to donate to invididual politicians.

Conservative Christians in particular are benefiting from this.

Marcelo Crivella, a founder of the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) and a bishop in the the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is heading the polls to be mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

Crivella is the nephew of Edir Macedo, the bishop who heads the Crivella's church, who preaches the "prosperity gospel" and is in his own right one of the world's wealthiest men. 

Celso Russomanno in São Paulo, also running for the PRB, has climbed to second place, according to Datafolha.

The conservative Christian preachers and politicians campaign against corruption, gay marriage and abortion.

Evangelical churches in Brazil have grown rapidly in political influence.

Two years ago The Guardian reported: "Their political clout is visible. While the Catholic church has long exerted influence behind the scenes, evangelical pastors flex their political muscle overtly. Last year (2013), the biggest public demonstration in Brazil was not one of the many political protests, but a March for Jesus rally that drew more than 800,000 people on to the streets of São Paulo."

Michael Temer, 75, a Catholic, appointed several influential evangelicals to top posts when he became acting President and then President of Brazil after Dilma Rousseff was removed and then impeached.

One was Marcos Pereira, another bishop in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and a devout conservative who is also a creationist.

Only last month, Southern Baptists returning to the United States with testimonies of widespread revivals in churches, communities, prisons and schools, following a mission in Brazil.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year: "Just as the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority emerged as a force in the United States in the 1980s, Brazilian evangelical leaders have gone from the political sidelines to the center. Their movement is not a coordinated effort to take power, they insist, but a grass-roots backlash against secularism, homosexuality and changes­ introduced during 13 years of Marxist-inspired Workers' Party rule."

And this week Bloomberg analysed the political and financial aspects: "Sunday's nationwide elections for mayors and city council in over 5,500 municipalities will provide the first snapshot of Brazil's politics in the aftermath of impeachment. They will indicate which parties are well-positioned to support candidates in the 2018 presidential race."

Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who heads Brazil's top electoral authority, the TSE, told Reuters: "Ending corporate donations has, in fact, favored rich candidates who have their own resources." In addition, under the new rules which ban corporate donations, wealthy candidates are allowed to give up to 10 percent of their own income to their own campaigns.

Additional reporting by Reuters.