RIO DE JANEIRO—Pastor Silas Malafaia, the megawatt televangelist and leader in Brazil's Pentecostal Assemblies of God church, did not get his preferred choice in the country's presidential election. He wanted Marina Silva, a fellow member of the Assemblies of God, to finish in the top two, sending the evangelical Christian into Sunday's runoff.
She placed third, but that hasn't stopped Malafaia from wielding hefty political clout.
Malafaia, who has also published dozens of books on faith and espouses a socially conservative platform, is forbidden by law from politicking from the pulpit, but he has continued to use his standing to message against the incumbent Dilma Rousseff, head of the center-left Workers' Party. Malafaia is warning voters of the economic and social consequences of extending the party's 12-year rule (in a recent video, he even warned that schools were teaching homosexuality). Rousseff is leading challenger Aecio Neves, a member of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party, in polls ahead of the final round Sunday.
That the views of Malafaia and other evangelical preachers are being closely watched in Brazil is a result of the growing political and social power of Assemblies of God, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, the Brazilian Baptist Convention, and other evangelical churches in the world's largest Catholic country. The number of citizens identifying as evangelical grew from 7 percent to 22 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the percentage of Catholics dropped from 74 percent to 65 percent, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.