Brazil 2010: Runoff

The second round of Brazil’s presidential election and nine gubernatorial elections were held in Brazil yesterday, Sunday October 31. The results of the first round, including the single-round legislative contests were covered here.

The presidential runoff featured Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s hand-picked successor, who was heavily favoured after the first round; and former Governor José Serra of the centre-right PSDB. Though Dilma won 47% on the first round and ran around 14 points ahead of Serra, she faced a surprisingly close race early on in the runoff, where she was cornered by Serra and external forces on the wedge issue of abortion and she had a tough time finding a winning voice. The issue of abortion, which came up right before the first round and played a big role in her performance that day, came up again to haunt her. Religious leaders, especially those in Brazil’s influential evangelical community, expressed dissatisfaction at her past support for liberalizing the country’s conservative abortion laws. Her campaign and the PT, of course, backtracked and reaffirmed that she would not liberalize any abortion legislation if elected President. This might have helped her, but Serra used the opportunity to portray her as a flip-flopper and a panderer. Furthermore, Serra’s early daily ads early on were quite strong, attacking Dilma on her lack of experience, and even on the issue of corruption, which is always a risky field in Brazil for candidates to attack each other on. Dilma’s ads, on the other hands, perhaps relied too heavily on the traditional worship of Lula and heavy publicity for his government’s social policies. Furthermore, since Serra is a stronger candidate than Alckmin was, he was able to shield himself from the PT’s usual line that the PSDB is pro-privatization. However, Dilma opened up the gap a bit from a narrow 4-6 point advantage into a 10-12 point advantage. Serra, who had worked so hard to find his voice in the campaign and finally found it right after the runoff, lost it again. First, there were rumours according to which Serra’s wife had an abortion during their exile in Chile (during the dictatorship). That killed the issue of abortion and prevented Serra from using it as a wedge issue (given the sparse ideological differences between both, wedge issues are well-liked by candidates). His campaign was also hit by small scandals, and he himself was hit in the face – by masking tape – and he overplayed the incident. The campaign in general became quite violent, and Serra was the main culprit in making it so. Perhaps it didn’t help him to be so tough, but from his point of view it was his only hope and he gave the race all he had. In the end, it was far from enough:

Dilma Rousseff (PT) 56.05%
José Serra (PSDB) 43.95%
blank and null 6.7%
abstention 21.50%

Dilma’s victory – which is also a resounding victory for pollsters (notably Ibope, who got it all correct in their exit polls and most of their final polls) is a major victory for Lula and his government’s policies. It isn’t surprising that a very popular incumbent would be succeeded by his preferred candidate, though it may be surprising for some that Dilma didn’t win a massive landslide given how high Lula’s approval ratings are. That says a lot about how class-stratified the country is, actually. Not much point in jumping on the western media’s bandwagon and placing undue emphasis on the fact that Dilma is a women, given that even though Brazil is a patriarchal society, it wasn’t an issue in the campaign and I doubt there was much sexist voting by men. In fact, as for Royal in France back in 2007, Dilma probably did better with men than with women. Some will argue, quite rightly, that Dilma is not extremely feminine and her tough style and past experiences almost make her a typical male candidate instead of a stereotypical female candidate (the myth of the women candidate being shier, not as tough and all that stupid stuff). However, one thing which is important to note now is that there’s a pattern of women office holders in Brazil (and perhaps in other Latin American countries, such as Argentina) being held to account much more than males. For example, voters have proved to be much less tolerant of corruption in governments led by a woman than in one led by a male. Given the nature of politics in Brazil and the inevitability of a winning candidate constructing not-so-clean alliances, this could become an important issue.

It is likely that Dilma will continue Lula’s policies. She campaigned openly on the fact that she was the candidate of continuity (it’s funny that at the same time in a majority of other western democracies, everybody’s going around on the theme of ‘change’). Comparisons can be drawn to Santos in Colombia, widely seen as the candidate of continuity (of Uribe’s policies). But unlike Santos, Dilma was the incumbent’s preferred candidate and unlike Santos, there is no rivalry of date between the incoming and outgoing presidents. Continuing Lula’s policies mean that Brazil’s much lauded social programs will continue and likely be built upon, while at the same time rather heavy state involvement in the economy (strict control of inflation through high interest rates, oil royalties, no privatizations, big spending) will continue. On the foreign policy level, it is widely believed that she will continue Lula’s policy of increasing Brazilian presence on the world stage (through active participation in the G20 summits and increasing foreign aid programs in Africa and especially Lusophone Africa) all with the aim of getting Brazil a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. In addition, her victory means that Brazil’s controversial (to Washington’s eyes) relations with Iran will continue. On the regional level, Brazil will remain a major player in the broad left block (which includes the likes of Chavez, Correa and Morales) and in the smaller centre-left moderate Southern Cone block (which includes Fernandez de Kirchner, Lugo, Mujica). A Serra victory would have put Brazil far more in line with Washington and would have led to worse relations with Venezuela or Bolivia.

On the topic of random factoids, this is the second time since 1994 that a retiring President’s preferred candidate wins (a case could be made that FHC wasn’t, deep down, Itamar’s preferred successor; if you discount 1994 then you’re going back a long time). It is also the second succession from an elected President to another since 2002, because before that the last transition from elected incumbent to elected incomer was in 1961 with the JK-Quadros handover.

Albeit with an overall swing to the right compared to 2006, the geographical patterns established in 2006 have stuck, and will stick. Brazil is, at its roots, a class-stratified society. A left-wing government which has undertaken policies aimed at lifting the country’s poorest out of poverty has perhaps led to make this division even more pronounced. Many middle-class Brazilians, a lot of whom will loathe Dilma, tend to look down on the poorer classes and regard the whole issue as an annoying problem, and the people who are poor as somewhat of a problem. Some will regard the Bolsa Familia and similar social programs as nothing more than the government’s attempt to bribe the poor population into voting for them and installing a Mexican PRI-like regime led by the PT in Brazil. The heavy vote of the wealthier regions in Serra’s favour tend to exemplify this division of the electorate along lines of class. As in 2006, the ‘blue states’ have a much higher HDI and GDP per capita than the ‘red states’ do. In 1989, it was almost the other way around.

Serra won 53.89% and 50.92% in the South and Centre-West regions respectively. The first in Brazil’s wealthiest (and whitest) region; including well-off cities such as Curitiba (63.6% for Serra), Florianópolis (61.5% for Serra) and Porto Alegre (55.8% for Serra) and also a rather hilly but extremely wealthy inland region stretching from northern Rio Grande do Sul all the way into the Paulista backcountry. In very wealthy and heavily white European cities such as Joinville, Blumenau and Londrina; Serra won by huge margins. That being said, parts of the three southern states sharing a border with Argentina or another country tended to vote for Dilma more heavily, a result, largely, of lesser affluence in these more isolated areas; but also of an old dying tradition of positivism in the gaucho countryside of Rio Grande do Sul (which was still alive and well as recently as 1998). In the Centre-West, the thick woods of Mato Grosso have been disappearing fast as soy farms expand and contribute to the region’s strong agrobusiness-driven economy. While agrobusiness and the whole soy industry tends to translate into a right-wing vote, it certainly cannot be said that the PT governments have not encouraged this growth. Dilma herself, as Energy Minister, was well-known for pushing through major hydroelectric projects in the region while Lula, allied with figures such as Mato Grosso’s soy king Blairo Maggi (incoming Senator), allowed the rapid growth of agrobusiness. Agrobusiness has also taken root in Acre (replacing the 1980s rubber-tapping dominated backwoods economy in favour of a pioneer front big farms economy), Roraima, Rondônia and Pará. On the other hand, the state of Amazonas and Amapá have not seen a similar growth in agrobusiness at the expense of the rainforest. In addition, federal funding and social spending is very high in Amazonas and lower in surrounding states.

In the Northeast, what we saw in the first round were repeated again on October 31. In the major urban centres, Dilma won Salvador (73%), Recife (66.4%), Fortaleza (61.8%), Teresina (63.9%) and São Luis (76.7%). Serra was victorious notably in Natal (51.7%), Maceió (60.8%), Aracaju (53.8%) and in smaller centres such as Vitoria da Conquista (55.9%) and Campina Grande (60.2%). Broadly speaking, Dilma totally owned in the sertão. She already won 70-90% in a lot of the sertão’s small towns, she won by similarly crushing margins this time.

Marina Silva (PV), who won 19.3% in the first round, did not endorse anybody though some prominent Green politicians and state parties did (Fernando Gabeira, of course, went to Serra). Her vote, it is estimated, broke around 55-60% for Serra. This isn’t surprising, given that a large part of her electorate was a young, well-educated and urban electorate who had more in common with Serra’s average voter than Dilma’s average voter. Brasilia, which she won by a strong margin, went to Dilma by a 5.6% margin. Belo Horizonte, MG; her other big win, however, went to Serra, narrowly, with 50.4% for him.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Dilma won 60.99% of the vote. A map of the results at the ward level can be seen here. The wealthiest areas in the city’s south facing the ocean went heavily to Serra. The well-known places: Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon (the wealthiest place in the city) gave him over 60% of the vote. The north, which has more favelas and is generally poorer backed Dilma by large margins. In Rio de Janeiro, the core of the city is not the wealthiest area (unlike in most Latin American cities), and it went heavily to Dilma. Dilma also swept Rio’s northern faubourgs, cities such as Duque de Caxias and Nova Iguaçu. Niteroí, a well-off town on the other side of the Bay of Guanabara, which had gone to Marina, went to Dilma narrowly with 52.6%. Volta Redonda, the old heart of Brazil’s metallurgical industry, which had voted for Marina as well, gave Dilma 61.7%.

In the city of São Paulo, Serra won 53.64% of the vote. A map of the results at the ward level can be seen here. The core of the city and its surrounding areas went heavily for Serra. These areas, as is usual in a lot of cities, are the wealthiest parts. Serra won a crushing 77.5% in Pinheiros, the city’s wealthiest area (with a HDI similar to some Scandinavian countries). He took 82.5% in the Jardim Paulista, which is also extremely wealthy. The city’s outskirts, on all three sides, went to Dilma, with her margins increasing the further you got from the centre of the city. Dilma won the working-class cities of the ABC belt, where Lula’s political career kicked off. She won 56.2% in São Bernardo do Campo and 66.5% in Diadema. Serra took nearly 69% in São Caetano do Sul, the country’s wealthiest municipality.

Dilma won by nearly 17 points in Minas Gerais (59-41 or something), and this was probably crucial in the state which usually decides elections. Belo Horizonte, the state’s wealthy capital, voted narrowly for Serra although its suburbs voted heavily for Dilma. Dilma also won Juiz de Fora, a major industrial city in the south of the state, with 68.8%. She also won in Uberlândia, a major city in the west of the state, with  As expected, the state-level races on October 3 (swept by the PSDB and its allies) were a different ballgame all together and had no effect on the presidential race. Aécio Neves did some last minute and reluctant campaigning for Serra in a state where he was elected Senator in a landslide a month ago, but it was arguably in Aécio’s interest to have Serra lose in order to make the ground perfect for him to run in 2014.

Abstention was quite high, breaking 20% and reaching its highest point since 1998. Abstention is technically illegal in Brazil, but turnout is not strictly enforced, especially in remote areas. Turnout is usually lower in these remote areas and higher in urban areas; and thus in some areas low turnout can hurt the left. Turnout was particularly low in Acre, Amazonas and Maranhão. Blank and null votes, however, were lower, because there are fewer possibilities for voter error when you have only two candidates instead of ten or so. Indeed, those whose votes are blank and null now are perhaps in large part voters who deliberately voided their vote to make a message (Plínio, the PSOL’s candidate, cast a blank vote).

The state of Acre had a 44 point swing to the right compared to 2006, making it Serra’s strongest state (Roraima is still in the top, though, narrowly trailing Acre as his second-best state). I don’t know the in-and-outs of economic changes on the ground, but there has likely been a major shift towards agrobusiness in the state. In addition, there are a lot of evangelicals in the North, and a look at results in places like Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo (likely explaining Serra’s win there) show a major shift of this demographic towards Serra vis-a-vis the 2006 results.

There is also the case of state governments influencing presidential results. Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba both had strong swings towards Serra, and in both of these states a left-wing incumbent aligned with Dilma were defeated. In Tocantins, lower turnout likely explains why Dilma’s percentage share actually declined between the first and second round; though here again an incumbent governor allied with the left was defeated (albeit narrowly) for reelection.

While the Northeast trended towards Serra, it should not be interpreted as a sign that something is changing there. Dilma won over 70% of the vote in the region, making it her best region again and there is nothing that could explain a major swing to the right at this point in time, except a weakening of the left in certain urban centres in the region. What we saw happen in the region in 2006 were certainly not a fluke, on the contrary it is now a defining pattern in Brazilian electoral geography.

The whole South, the outer Centre-West and São Paulo had a net ‘trend’ (swinging below the national swing) towards Dilma. Rio Grande do Sul, where Dilma is based, was the only state where she did better than Lula had done in 2006. That being said, she lost in Porto Alegre, her political base. The trend towards her in the rest of the region is part local appeal (Lula had a Northeastern appeal, probably, in 2006) but also perhaps a reflection of a small and almost invisible shift with a part of the urban middle-class as a result of the strong economy in the country which has benefited the middle-classes as well. In Mato Grosso, her well-known and documented support for agrobusiness and hydroelectricity were probably important factors in this ‘trend’.

The ‘evangelical effect’ is probably an explanation for the trend in Espírito Santo but also Rio de Janeiro and Rondônia. These states have a lot of evangelical voters, and they swung heavily towards Serra this year. In Espírito Santo, where offshore oil is booming, oil royalties may have proved to be an issue favourable to Serra.

We finish with a look at the gubernatorial runoffs, and a look at 2014.

In Alagoas, incumbent Governor Teotônio Vilela Filho (PSDB) was reelected with 52.74% of the votes against 47.26% for former Governor Ronaldo Lessa (PDT). Collor’s hypocritical support for his old enemy Lessa wasn’t enough, especially against a good and smart campaigner like Teo Vilela. Although a member of the PSDB, Vilela has placed a lot of emphasis on his ability to work with the federal government to get things done from Alagoas (think of rhetoric similar to “working across party lines” in the US). He has also made sure people think that he’s actually endorsed by Lula or supported by Lula. Furthermore, Vilela, who is honest and competent, has a good record in government and attacked Lessa hard on corruption (Lessa is quite corrupt). When you’re attacked for corruption in Brazil, it’s rarely a good thing to then hang out with the country’s sole impeached President – Collor.

In Amapá, Camilo Capiberibe (PSB) has been elected governor with 53.77% of the votes against 46.23% for Lucas Baretto (PTB). This is a major victory for clean government and a defeat for José Sarney, the corrupt President of the Senate and Senator from Amapá, a state which he basically owns. Capiberibe, endorsed by the PSB and PT in the first round, got a lot of other parties on his side and emerged as a kind of anti-corruption candidate over Lucas, who is corrupt due to his ties with Sarney. In this context, it’s important to note that the incumbent governor (defeated badly on the first round) recently spent a few days in jail. Sarney still wields considerable power, and even though he hates the Capiberibe family, the incoming Governor has said he wants to work with Sarney.

In the Federal District, the next Governor is Agnelo Queiroz (PT) who won 66.10% against 33.9% for Weslian Roriz (PSC). Agnelo isn’t 100% clean, but the DF has had a major corruption scandal in 2009 (with its then-governor removed from office and sent to jail) and the right’s standard bearer, the Roriz family (Joaquim Roriz was removed from the ballot in the end, and was replaced by his wife) are crooks. Agnelo campaigned big on corruption, and promises honest governance. He won almost all of the votes which had gone to smaller candidates in the first round, notably 14% won by the PSOL’s Toninho.

In Goiás, Senator and former Governor Marconi Perillo (PSDB) won 52.99% against 47.01% for former mayor Iris Rezende (PMDB). Marconi Perillo, a popular senator and successful governor till 2007, has won a tough race to succeed his former ally and current rival, retiring Governor Alcides Rodrigues (PP). Alcides Rodrigues and his first round candidate, Vanderlan (PR) who took about 16% both backed Iris Rezende, also backed by Lula.

In Pará, former governor Simão Jatene (PSDB) won 55.74% of the votes against 44.26% for incumbent governor Ana Júlia Carepa (PT). He had retired at the last minute in 2006, and the PSDB’s candidate, Almir Gabriel, had lost to Ana Júlia Carepa thanks to a strong flow of first-round PMDB votes to her. This time, it’s vice-versa. The PMDB, and its local baron, well-known criminal Jader Barbalho, supported Jatene in the runoff, although Jatene is on very poor terms now with fellow tucano Almir Gabriel. Jatene also promises to work across party lines to get pork for his state. Hopefully he doesn’t take Jader Barbalho’s route of getting it.

In Paraíba, former mayor Ricardo Coutinho (PSB) won 53.7% against 46.3% for incumbent governor Ze Maranhão (PMDB). Coutinho, although a former petista, was endorsed by the PSDB/DEM and is considered to be a right-winger or close to it. Ze Maranhão had only taken office as a result of the disqualification of the 2006 winner (Cunha Lima, who was forced out for vote buying), and led a pretty poor campaign, notably refusing to debate Coutinho. Ze Maranhão, who won 49.3% in the first round, also saw his vote share drop.

In Piauí, Governor Wilson Martins (PSB), who took office in March, was reelected with 58.93% against 41.07% for his PSDB opponent, Silvio Mendes. There was never much suspense in this race, though Martins won by a slightly larger margin than polls had predicted.

In Rondônia, former federal deputy Confúcio Moura (PMDB) won 58.68% of the vote against 41.32% for incumbent Governor João Cahulla (PPS), in office since March. Confúcio Moura had received the support of Expedito Junior (PSDB), a top contender who was barred from running under the Clean Slate law. To answer inevitable questions, Confúcio seems to have endorsed Dilma reluctantly but seems to be one of those pure opportunists who have trouble endorsing a candidate when its time (but have no trouble supporting him/her if he/she wins).

In Roraima, the surprise of the night came with the narrow reelection of Governor Anchieta (PSDB) with 50.41% against 49.59% for Neudo Campos (PP). Anchieta, who took office in 2007 following death of former governor Ottomar Pinto (PSDB) had been in hot water after the first round, in which he trailed Neudo Campos by nearly 3 points.

Focus in the political world, for some, has already shifted over to 2014. Dilma is widely expected to run again, although some (mostly those on the right) believe that Lula would like to run again in 2014. However, he’ll be old by then and he has shown no interest in doing so. Lula is hardly a Chavez or a Putin, and though Dilma was his candidate she does not seem to be the type of person who is a perfect puppet and placeholder. There are, however, other names on the broad left/government side which are ambitious and tempted by a run. Eduardo Campos (PSB-PE) is emerging as a major political leader for the PSB and has much weight as Pernambuco’s popular governor. He is definitely ambitious, perhaps the equal of Aécio Neves. Sérgio Cabral (PMDB-RJ), the governor of Rio, is also thought to be interested in running some day.

For the opposition, it was clear from the outset that José Serra was not their ideal candidate. Not extremely charismatic, too old and too connected to Cardoso for his own good, he also faced quiet rebels, notably from the party’s young guard: Aécio Neves and Beto Richa. The easy wins by both of these young and talented individuals were a sign to the party to start renewing itself. It also places Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG) as the early favourite for 2014, with Beto Richa (PSDB-PR) but also Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB-SP) as other potential contenders. In his awkward concession speech, José Serra said he wasn’t bowing out yet and he didn’t close the door to a third run. He also had a snide remark for Aécio when he complimented Alckmin for his loyalty (Serra’s supporters accuse Aécio of disloyalty and not doing all he could for Serra).

The next time Brazil will grace us with elections is in 2012, for municipal elections.


Posted on November 2, 2010, in Brazil, Regional and local elections. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very interesting article. :)

    The trend map is pretty funny, with Blue States trending red and vice-versa. Also, it seems like the good people won gubernatorial contests, which is certainly important. As for 2014, except if something exceptional happens, Dilma should preside a stronger, wealthier and more egalitarian Brazil than it is today, and so she wouldn’t have to worry so much, except maybe for fatigue. Of course, Aecio Neves could be an excellent challenger, and it’s good to see that both parties have cards in hands.

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