In the 1982 direct elections for governors, the opposition parties won a major victory, especially the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), which came to power in some of the most important states. Along with the loss of political support, the increasing economic crisis undermined the military government, and protests were expanding. The most relevant of these movements would be a huge mobilization of civil society and opposition parties by the “Elections Now” (or Diretas Já) movement. A bill to change the constitution and establish the direct election for the presidency was presented in Congress. There were large rallies, culminating in a huge demonstration in the city of São Paulo, bringing together more than a million people.
Although the last military regime rejected these demands and kept indirect elections, the electoral result was a surprise to the military. The Brazilian Democratic Party (PDS), which constituted the civilian political base of military rule, split when choosing its candidate. The official candidate was Colonel Mário Andreazza, a minister under Figueiredo. But there also emerged a civilian candidate, Paulo Maluf, a politician who had ascended to power in São Paulo under the protection of the military regime, having been mayor of the capital and governor of the state. Although not having official support, Maluf was able to launch himself as the candidate of the government party. Although the indirect election was decided by an electoral college that the government electors controlled, the split in the PDS made possible the victory of the opposition candidate Tancredo Neves, governor of Minas Gerais, known for his moderation and political skill. Jose Sarney, a traditional government party man, who had opposed the candidacy of Maluf, was the vice president on the opposition ticket.