Bolsonaro's party gears up to be Lula's opposition, will back him again in 2026

BRASILIA (Reuters) -The party of Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, recently defeated by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will be the main opposition to Lula when he takes office on Jan. 1, its leader, Valdemar Costa Neto, said on Tuesday.

The right-wing Liberal Party (PL) emerged from elections last month as the largest party in the Brazilian Congress, riding the unexpected rise in support for Bolsonaro, who narrowly lost his re-election bid to Lula.

Bolsonaro will be the party's candidate for president in the next elections in 2026, and will be named the party's honorary president, Costa Neto said.

"Bolsonarismo (his conservative movement) is growing a lot. It's getting bigger than Bolsonaro," he told a news conference.

Costa Neto said his party is not planning to contest the election result that marks the return of former leftist president Lula to office. That could change, he said, if a military report to be published on Wednesday points to any irregularities.

Bolsonaro repeatedly criticized Brazil's electronic voting system, claiming it is vulnerable to fraud. He did not concede defeat, but authorized his chief of staff to begin negotiating a transition, which was taken as recognition of the result.

Bolsonaro has said his supporters were justified in protesting his defeat, though he asked them to clear their roadblocks on highways.

Costa Neto said his party agreed with their right to protest in front of military bases as long as they remained legal and did not block people's movements.

The PL leader also told reporters that his party will vote for a constitutional amendment proposed by Lula to allow a budget waiver that can cover social welfare costs from the extension of higher monthly payments to poor families, a promise both candidates made during the election campaign.

"I discussed this at length with President Bolsonaro and he said that, if it is in the public interest and the interest of the country, we will vote in favor of the constitutional amendment, but everything has to be well discussed beforehand," he said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Maria Carolina and Ricardo Brito; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Leslie Adler and Bill Berkrot)