Jair Bolsonaro, who never formally conceded defeat in last year's presidential race, vows to lead opposition to Lula da Silva's government, raising stakes for new administration after a highly polarised election in the South American country.

Bolsonaro is set to start a new job next week as honorary president of the party, earning around $8,000 a month.
Bolsonaro is set to start a new job next week as honorary president of the party, earning around $8,000 a month. (Reuters)

Ex-president Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to be a fierce opponent to his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, after returning home to Brazil from three months of self-imposed exile in the United States.

The far-right ex-army captain, who skipped town in the final hours of his term after losing a divisive election to veteran leftist Lula, arrived back in Brasilia on a commercial flight from Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

Bolsonaro, 68, then headed to the headquarters of his Liberal Party (PL) in a motorcade flanked by police — whose role appeared to be not just protecting the ex-president, but keeping him away from cheering supporters who wanted him to defy local authorities' appeals for calm and lead one of his trademark motorcycle rallies.

The homecoming is a high-stakes bet for Bolsonaro, who faces legal trouble on various fronts in Brazil — notably for his alleged role in inciting supporters who invaded the presidential palace, Congress and the Supreme Court on January 8 in a failed bid to oust Lula.

The former president, whose administration lasted from 2019-2022, kept his arrival low-key in line with Brasilia authorities' wishes.

He exited the airport without approaching the exuberant crowd of around 200 supporters who had gathered to greet him while shouting, chanting and singing, decked out in the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag.

Bolsonaro looked more relaxed at PL headquarters, where he shook hands and backslapped party leaders before making a speech.

"The people in power right now — and they won't be for long — can't just do whatever they want with our future," he said.

"We're the majority [in Congress], and we want what's best for the country."

Bolsonaro is set to start a new job next week as honorary president of the party, earning around $8,000 a month.

READ MORE: Bolsonaro lands back in Brazil three months after election defeat

Legal woes 

The ex-president, who recently rented a house in a gated community in Brasilia, has said he plans to criss-cross Brazil "doing politics" and "upholding the banner of conservatism."

But "I'm not going to lead any opposition," he told CNN Brasil on Wednesday.

"You don't have to oppose this government. It creates the opposition by itself."

Bolsonaro faces numerous legal woes.

They include no less than five Supreme Court investigations that could send him to jail, including for allegedly inciting the Brasilia riots.

And he has been swept up in a scandal over allegations he tried to illegally import and keep millions of dollars' worth of jewellery given to him and his wife by Saudi Arabia in 2019.

He also faces 16 cases before Brazil's Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which could strip him of his right to run for office for eight years, taking him out of the 2026 presidential race.

READ MORE: Brazil: How pro-Bolsonaro supporters crowdfunded the insurrection

Source: AFP