After the suicide of Getúlio Vargas, his Vice President João Café Filho took office. Prior to Vargas' death, Brazil was living a time of intense political division, with the right-wing opposition National Democratic Union (UDN), high-level military officers and the mass media openly trying to depose him following the attempted assassination of right-wing journalist Carlos Lacerda, allegedly ordered by Vargas.
Juscelino Kubitschek, then Governor of Minas Gerais and a member of the pro-Vargas Social Democratic Party (PSD) announced his candidacy and built an alliance with the popular left-wing populist João Goulart of Vargas' Brazilian Labour Party (PTB), who was Vargas' former Minister of Labour and personal friend and who became cherished by the workers after granting a 100% increase in the minimum wage. A PSD-PTB coalition was then formed, with Kubitscheck as the presidential candidate and Goulart as his running mate.
The UDN, which wanted to done a more moderate and centrist image launched the candidacy of Juarez Távora, an old military officer. The party formed a multi-party coalition in order to defeat the PSD-PTB coalition, a coalition which included the Republican Party and the Christian Democratic Party.
During the campaign, Luís Carlos Prestes, leader of then illegal Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) declared his intention to vote for the Kubitscheck-Goulart ticket, an incidient which increased the communist denunciations of the UDN and the media against the PSD-PTB campaign.