Category Archives: Brazil

Brazil 2014

Presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and state elections were held in Brazil on October 6, 2014, with a presidential and gubernatorial runoffs on October 26, 2014.

No, this blog isn’t dead! This superbly detailed but ridiculously long post took up most of my busy time, preventing me from posting about other elections as I had wished. I hope to cover a few of the elections I have missed. I still welcome guest posts, on any topic and recent election. Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas to all readers, and warm wishes for a happy election-filled New Year 2015.

Political and electoral system

The President of Brazil, the head of state and government of Brazil, is elected directly to a four-year term, renewable once (but with the possibility to run again after leaving office). The President is elected using a two-round system, in which a second round is held three weeks later if no candidate has won an absolute majority in the first round. Presidential candidates select a running-mate, who serves as Vice President in the event of their ticket’s election.

The National Congress of Brazil (Congresso Nacional do Brasil) is a bicameral legislature composed of the 81-member Federal Senate (Senado Federal), which represents the states and the 513-member Chamber of Deputies (Câmara dos Deputados), which represents the people. In the regular legislative process, both houses have equal powers – meaning that both of them must approve a bill for it to pass, and both houses must vote to override a President’s veto on a bill. Both houses have some reserved powers – for example, the Senate must confirm some presidential appointments and holds impeachment proceedings (which are initiated by the Chamber).

The Senate is composed of 81 senators representing Brazil’s 27 constituent units – 26 states and the Federal District (DF) – with 3 senators for each constituent unit, elected to eight-year terms with no term limits. Senators are elected every four years – two-thirds of the Senate is up for election at one time when each state elects two of its senators, and one-third is up four years later when each state elects one senator. Senators are elected by first past the post.

The Chamber of Deputies has 513 members, supposed to be apportioned between the states on the basis of population, but the Constitution establishes that no state may have more than 70 deputies or less than 8 deputies. This means that there is major misrepresentation in the Chamber, with deputies in the state of São Paulo representing over 570,000 people each while the eight deputies from the smallest state, Roraima, each represent only 53,000 people. Deputies are elected in each state by open-list proportional representation. Voters may vote for a party or a candidate on a party list, with the votes cast for the party directly and all its candidates being added with the seats distributed proportionally. Most Brazilians vote for individual candidates, rather than the party list. The candidates elected are those who have won the largest number of votes for a party. The effect of this electoral system is that political parties seek to maximize their votes, and thus seat count, by running celebrity or star candidates who are able to win a large number of votes. For example, a small party which has a very popular candidate who wins a large number of votes him/herself can drag other party candidates in with him, even if they won very few votes. In 2002, for instance, a small party run by a charismatic and popular leader had their leading poll over 1.5 million votes and therefore elected six seats – including four candidates who had won less than 1,000 votes!

Brazil is a federal state divided into 26 states and one Federal District. The states have power over matters not explicitly forbidden to them in the Constitution. Each state and the DF has a directly-elected Governor, who serves a four-year term renewable once. The Governor, elected on a ticket with a Vice Governor, is elected using a two-round system. The legislative power of each state is vested in a Legislative Assembly (Assembleia Legislativa), with the number of deputies in each state set according to a formula in the Constitution (Article 27). The largest state, São Paulo, elects 94 state deputies; the smallest states have 24 state deputies. Deputies in Legislative Assemblies are known as deputados estaduais (state deputies) or, in the DF, deputados distritais (district deputies) to differentiate them from members of the Chamber of Deputies, who are deputados federais (federal deputies). The DF’s government is organized like a state government, with an elected Governor and state legislature, but the DF has no state constitution and it has the powers of a state and a municipality.

Brazil has a strong and independent judiciary. The Supreme Federal Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF) is the court of last resort with responsibility over constitutional law. It has 11 judges (called ‘ministers’) appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The 33-member Superior Court of Justice (Superior Tribunal de Justiça, STJ) is the highest appellate court for all non-constitutional questions of federal law. Courts have decided on a number of important issues in recent years, including same-sex marriage, but also on electoral matters including the Ficha Limpa law (Clean Slate Law), which renders ineligible for 8 years any candidate whose mandate was revoked, resigned office to escape impeachment or who was convicted by a collective body (the STF ruled in 2011 that the law could not apply to the 2010 elections and ruled it constitutional for future elections in 2012).

Registration and voting is compulsory for all citizens between 18 and 70, excepting the illiterate; registration and voting is voluntary for voters aged 16 to 18 and those over 70. Compulsory voting is enforced, with voters who did not vote being forced to provide adequate justification for not voting within 60 days after the election, or else they are fined. Candidates for any elected office must be registered with a political party (they may not run as an independent), and all candidates for office receive free airtime on radio and TV. While candidates in second rounds have equal airtime, the duration of each candidate’s airtime in the first round is determined by the size and weight of the parties in a candidate’s coalition – meaning that there exists a real incentive for candidates to be supported by a large number of parties, even small ones, in order to increase their airtime.

In order to run for another office, the President, cabinet ministers, governors and mayors must resign from their respective offices at least six months before the election. An incumbent seeking reelection to the same office, however, does not resign, which has sometimes raised questions about incumbents using the advantages of their office and state resources to campaign for reelection.

Although Brazilian political parties play an important role in the political process, many parties in Brazil have little formal ideologies or coherent principles, and function as patronage machines seeking power with little interest in the general ideological direction of the government. Because of legal regulations on free airtime or the number of candidates allowed to run, larger parties have an interest in contracting electoral coalitions with smaller parties – oftentimes the smaller parties are the most venal and corrupt parties – for strategic electoral purposes. Many of these small parties which form coalitions with one another are known as ‘rental parties’ or ‘parties for hire’ (partido de aluguel) meaning that they will sell themselves to the highest bidder when election season rolls around. In return, these ‘parties for hire’ can win seats in Congress and, as it gets a substantial number of seats, its bidding power on the government increases and it gains access to the spoils of power (lucrative posts in public institutions and agencies, government contracts, public works in their state). The harsh and unpleasant reality of Brazilian party politics means that it is very difficult for a politician to be elected to high office without making strategic alliances with these powerful patronage parties.

There are, of course, parties with more coherent ideologies and politicians with principles – although these parties and politicians are forced to deal with the venal parties if they want to get anywhere.

Historical background

In the 2010 elections, Dilma Rousseff was elected President of Brazil as the anointed successor of popular two-term outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), first elected to office in 2002.

Lula was a left-wing trade unionist, who grew up poor in Brazil’s impoverished Nordeste (Northeast) before moving, like many Northeasterners, to São Paulo – Brazil’s economic powerhouse – to work in the factories in São Paulo’s industrial suburbs. He rose through the ranks of the steel workers’ trade unions in São Bernardo do Campo due to his leadership skills and charisma, and gained national prominence due to his leadership in large strikes in favour of workers’ rights during the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985). In 1980, Lula led the foundation of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), a socialist party founded by independent left-wing trade unionists, left-wing intellectuals and Catholics influenced by Liberation Theology and, in 1983, he participated in the foundation of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), a trade union confederation which broke with the corporatist system of labour relations instituted by President Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945, 1951-1954) and practiced by the old varguista Brazilian Labour Party (PTB). The PT became one of the smaller parties which opposed the military regime in its waning years and supported democratization, notably the large-scale Diretas Já campaign for direct presidential elections in 1984. Between 1989 and 2002, Lula lost three successive presidential elections.

After having been ruled by the military since a 1964 coup, Brazil’s transition to democracy was negotiated and controlled by the military regime, beginning with General Ernesto Geisel (President, 1974-1979) policy of distensão, or political opening. Geisel’s successor, General João Figueiredo (1979-1985), decreed a general amnesty in 1979, passed a political reform which ended the rigid two-party system imposed by the military’s Ato Institucional Dos in 1965 (allowing for the registration of parties such as the PT) and allowed for the direct election of state governors in 1982 (the first direct elections of governors since the 1960s, after the regime abolished direct elections of governors in 1966 through AI-3). However, Figueiredo struggled to retain control of the transition process, facing strong pressure from a united and energized opposition movement (led by the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, or PMDB, the successor to the MDB, the sole tolerated legal opposition party to the regime) and reactionary opposition from military intelligence hardliners (linha dura). The Democratic Social Party (PDS), the pro-military party, split over the choice of a presidential successor ahead of the 1984 elections (which would still be indirect, through an electoral college dominated by the PDS, after the failure of the Diretas Já‘s campaign to amend the constitution for immediate direct elections). The PDS nominated Paulo Maluf, the infamously corrupt former ‘bionic’ mayor and governor of São Paulo; a choice which was immediately rejected by Maluf’s opponents including Vice President Aureliano Chaves, former Pernambuco governor Marco Maciel, the very powerful Bahian political boss Antônio Carlos Magalhães (ACM) and Maranhão senator José Sarney. Chaves, ACM and Marco Maciel participated in the foundation of the Liberal Front Party (Partido da Frente Liberal, PFL) and endorsed the opposition candidacy of Tancredo Neves, a veteran moderate opposition politician (who had served under the presidency of Getúlio Vargas and as Prime Minister under João Goulart prior to the 1964 coup) who was spearheading the movement for democratization in Brazil. José Sarney joined the PMDB and was Tancredo Neves’ running-mate, thus forming a broad coalition allying long-time opponents of the regime with defectors from the pro-regime party. Tancredo Neves was elected President by the electoral college, but he was rushed to the hospital on the eve of his inauguration and he died after seven surgical operations a bit over a month later. To allow for a smooth transition, it was agreed that Sarney would be allowed to become President, despite Tancredo never having been inaugurated formally.

Sarney’s government faced, besides the management of the transition and the adoption of the Constitution, hyperinflation. Sarney’s first response, the Cruzado Plan – which included a price and wage freeze, a new currency and a ‘wage trigger’ to automatically adjust wages when inflation reached 20% – was initially very popular, leading to an explosion of consumption and a massive victory for the PMDB in the 1986 elections, but ultimately failed because the price freeze distorted the profit margins of companies, leading to disinvestment and declining production and resulting in a serious supply crisis. The government ran through two other plans to tackle hyperinflation, but both failed. When Sarney left office, he was highly unpopular, seen as corrupt and unable to handle the economy. Nevertheless, Sarney did oversee the adoption of the 1988 Constitution and the restoration of democracy – with universal suffrage, civil and political liberties.

In 1989, the first direct presidential election since the 1964 military coup, Lula placed second in the first round with 16.1% and went on to face Fernando Collor de Mello, a young and suave populist-conservative governor of Alagoas (a small state in the Nordeste) who ran a very anti-Sarney campaign. In a dirty runoff campaign in which Collor was openly favoured by the powerful Globo media empire, Lula’s image as an angry radical worried conservative voters throughout the country and he was ultimately defeated by Collor, 49.4% to 44.2%. Collor took office as Brazil was facing hyperinflation. Collor quickly adopted drastic measures to fight inflation by aiming to sharply cut the amount of money in circulation. His Plano Collor included the introduction of (yet another) new currency, an 18-month freeze in all overnight deposits over US$1,300, a tax on financial transactions (stock shares, gold and financial titles), a price and wage freeze, an increase in utility prices, the dismissal of 360,000 public employees, exchange rate liberalization, elimination of tax incentives, abolition of several government institutes and Collor’s government promised wide-reaching neoliberal reforms to the economy including privatization and deregulation. Inflation did fall from 2947% in 1990 to 477% in 1991, but the Plano Collor’s initial success proved fleeting and inflation shot up again – to 1022% in 1992. In 1991 and 1992, Collor’s government was hit by an avalanche of revelations which showed that PC Farias, Collor’s sketchy campaign treasurer, was running a huge corruption scheme and embezzling millions in public monies by manipulating public contracts. In late September 1992, the Chamber achieved more than the two-thirds majority required to suspend Collor from office and Collor resigned at the end of the year hours before the Senate voted on his removal from office – which it ended up doing anyway.

His Vice President, Itamar Franco – a rather odd and erratic personality – needed to deal with the crisis of hyperinflation. Facing a real social and economic crisis, with inflation roaring at over 2075% in 1994, Itamar turned, in May 1993, to Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a prominent academic and sociologist exiled during most of the military regime. FHC took a gamble and presented an ambitious plan with the potential for high rewards but huge risks: the Plano Real. His plan cut public spending (by forcing Congress to kill its pork-barreling habits), increased tax collection, cracked down on tax evasion, required heavily indebted states to pay off their debts to the federal government and introduced the Unidade Real de Valor, a non-monetary reference currency (mandatory conversion of values) designed to break the psychological inertia of Brazilian inflation and ease the transition to the introduction of the Brazilian real on July 1, 1994. The Plano Real was a real success – inflation dropped from 46.6% to 6.1% between June and July 1994 (the introduction of the real), and inflation in 1995 fell to 66% and 16% in 1996. FHC, backed by powerful conservative bosses, announced his presidential candidacy in March 1994 and, after July, rode on the successful introduction of the new currency. In October, FHC was elected by the first round with 54.3% against 27% for Lula, who had been the initial favourite since the fallout from the Collor crisis.

FHC was a member of the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, PSDB), a party which he had helped create in 1988. The PSDB was founded by progressive reformist dissidents of the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) which had, under Sarney’s presidency, taken the form of an ideologically incoherent patronage-based alliance of regional political bosses. The PSDB’s founders included, besides FHC, Mário Covas, Franco Montoro and former student opposition leader José Serra. In 1989, the PSDB supported Lula in the second round over Collor and the party – especially Mário Covas – were opponents of Collor’s government before it was cool. FHC’s 1994 candidacy was made possible through the support of the PFL, particularly ACM, who provided FHC with his Vice President, Marco Maciel.

In office, Cardoso’s government maintained a strict macroeconomic policy aimed at ensuring the long-term success of the Plano Real and Brazil’s economic recovery. His government promoted privatizations of various state-owned companies (notably Telebrás, the state-owned monopoly telecom company); liberalized the energy sector with a 1997 law which broke Petrobras’ monopoly on exploration, production, refining and transportation of oil by allowing concessions of ‘well to wheel’ activities to private Brazilian companies (a model for the recent reform to Mexico’s public energy monopoly) and passed a fiscal responsibility law to impose controls on states and municipalities’ spending. The government’s HIV/AIDS policy, which encouraged production of generic drugs, was very successful and prevented an AIDS pandemic similar to that in South Africa. In 1997, Congress approved a constitutional amendment allowing for the immediate reelection of the President, governors and mayors – an amendment which allowed Cardoso to run for a second term in office in 1998, which he handily won by the first round, once again defeating Lula. There have been allegations that the government bribed congressmen to approve the reelection amendment.

In his second term, FHC faced a far more difficult economic situation. Brazil’s growing but fragile economy was hit by the successive regional and global economic crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and structural problems in the Plano Real – such as deflationary monetary policies and an overvalued semi-fixed exchange rate – worsened the problems. The economic crises in Mexico, Russia and Asia during this period caused sharp drops in prices of commodities exported by Brazil and outflows of capital. In 1999, the Central Bank devalued the real and the government later decided to float the currency. The economic effect of the devaluation was less negative than originally expected, and the economy grew by 4% in 2001. However, the government’s popularity was hurt by power cuts in 2001-2002, the result of a lack of investments in electrical infrastructure in the past 10 years. FHC left office having presided over a welcome period of political and economic stability in Brazil. While his legacy is somewhat controversial, with his opponents on the left considering him a neoliberal (an inaccurate label – FHC is far closer, ideologically, to the centrist Third Way promoted in the late 1990s by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton) while his supporters claim that he laid the bases for Brazil’s good economic performance in the 2000s under Lula.

Lula’s fourth presidential candidacy was his successful one. His 2002 victory, with 61.3% in the runoff against FHC’s health minister José Serra, was the result of a calculated ideological moderation in the PT and the creation of a more appealing personal image for the candidate. Lula contracted the services of Duda Mendonça, a famous advertising guru and political strategist who had managed to elect Paulo Maluf as mayor of São Paulo in 1992; Lula became ‘Lula peace and love’, a consensual and moderate candidate very different from the angry bearded union radical of 1989; Lula’s PT allied with some of the ‘for hire’ small parties – his running-mate was senator José Alencar, an evangelical Christian textile businessman  from the small centre-right Liberal Party (PL) and Lula pledged not to nationalize companies or default on Brazil’s foreign debt (two of his ‘scariest’ promises from 1989). Upon his victory, Lula promptly moved to allay the fears of investors by appointing an orthodox economist, Henrique Meirelles, as President of the Central Bank and another moderate, Antonio Palocci, as his Minister of Finance.

Lula pursued a conservative fiscal and monetary policy during his two terms in office. The Central Bank, which enjoyed wide autonomy, followed a strict inflation targeting policy which aimed – successfully – at keep inflation within a narrow band with a target of 4.5% in place since 2003. When Lula took office, inflation had been quite high – over 12.5% in 2002 and 9.3% in 2003 – but, in every subsequent year until he left office, Brazilian inflation was kept within the Central Bank’s bands (real inflation during Lula’s term fell between 7.6% and 3.1%). The Brazilian economy enjoyed strong growth rates during his term in office, at an average of 4% GDP growth per year between 2003 and 2010 – a higher average growth rate than under his predecessor’s two terms in power. Brazil weathered the 2008-9 global recession far better than most other G20 powers, with a small recession of 0.3% in 2009 but record growth of 7.5% in 2010. Lula’s terms in office also saw a significant decline in the unemployment rate, which fell from 12% when Lula took office in 2003 to 6.7% in 2010; with the Ministry of Labour reporting the creation of over 15 million jobs during his eight years in power, not considering layoffs – although job creation was erratic in the first term. Brazil’s public debt, which had increased significantly under FHC’s second term (79% in 2003), was reduced under Lula’s presidency, falling to 65% of GDP in 2010. The government and the Central Bank stuck to IMF commitments in achieving a ‘primary fiscal surplus’ and stuck to Cardoso’s anti-inflationary fiscal responsibility law. Brazil’s export economy performed well under Lula, thanks to increased exports of natural resources and agriculture (soybeans) and a great diversification of Brazil’s export partners which reduced Brazil’s traditional dependence on US and EU markets. In a change of course from his past anti-globalization rhetoric, the Lula administration worked within the WTO and became an active player in trade disputes – notably against EU and US agricultural and sugar subsidies.

Although the Central Bank’s strict deflationary policy and high interest rates were criticized, Brazilian interest rates declined gradually during Lula’s presidency. The government’s orthodox and conservative economic policies displeased many leftist members of the PT, but were praised by investors. Critics attacked the government for insufficient investments in infrastructure, healthcare and education. To the PT’s base, however, the drop in the price of food and the rise in the minimum wage were real tangible achievements.

By far, the most successful and popular aspect of Lula’s presidency was the significant reduction in poverty and income inequality in one of the world’s most unequal countries. Upon taking office, Lula introduced a strategy to combat malnutrition: Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), whose initiatives ranged from creation of ‘people’s restaurants’, expanding access to microcredit, creation of cisterns in the Nordeste’s sertão, food banks to hold supplies, direct support for family agriculture. The efficiency of Fome Zero was soon brought into question, with claims that it was badly administered and not reaching enough people. In 2004, the program was effectively replaced by what has become the government’s biggest lasting achievement – Bolsa Familía. The program replaced FHC’s Bolsa Escola, a conditional cash transfer for poor families with children attending school. Bolsa Familía is a conditional cash transfer program to poor and very poor families granted on condition that children/dependents are attending school and vaccinated. The program currently serves about 14 million families, who receive an average of R$149.46 per month. Some critics of Bolsa Familía have claimed that the program ignores the quality of education and promotes welfare dependency rather than job creation, while other critics have charged that it is a clientelist program aimed at buying poor voters’ support. However, the program has generally received praise and international interest, including from the World Bank (which has debunked a number of myths about the program’s effects on dependency), and has contributed to the significant reduction in poverty and income inequality in Brazil. In 2003, 43% of Brazilians lived on less than $4 a day. In 2011, that number had fallen to 24%. While Brazil remains one of the world’s most unequal countries, the Gini coefficient has fallen from about 0.59 when Lula took office to 0.53 in 2011. Income inequality and poverty had remained high, with little change, under Brazil’s previous democratic presidents – including under FHC’s two terms.

Lula’s government took steps to confront racial inequalities (a longtime taboo subject in a country founded in good part on the myth of ‘racial democracy’), cracked down on slave labour in remote regions of the Amazon and Nordeste (over 32,000 people were freed from slave labour under Lula’s presidency), supported a rural electrification project, supported family agriculture and PT supporters pointed out that Lula distributed more land to landless peasants than his predecessor did. Brazil’s education system continues to be ranked near the very bottom in PISA rankings, despite real efforts by Lula’s government to improve educational outcomes. His government created ProUni to grant full or partial scholarships to low-income students and created 11 federal universities. On environmental issues, the government’s record was shoddier – Lula constantly tried (and struggled) to straddle both sides of the dispute, being sensitive both to environmentalists’ demands for conservation of the Amazon rainforest, and the importance of agribusiness to the economy. Marina Silva, Lula’s environment minister, faced constant hostility from other sectors of the government as she sought to limit deforestation and environmentally-destructive development, until she resigned from cabinet in 2008.

Lula’s government saw Brazil adopt a much more active foreign policy, breaking with a certain passivity in the past administrations, and Lula put much personal energy and time during his two terms in foreign state visits and hosting foreign leaders. His foreign policy aimed to open more markets for Brazilian exports, deepen ties with other major developing states through BRICS (Russia, India, China and South Africa), promote South American integration, rebuild the Mercosul and boosting Brazil’s weight in international organizations such as the UN (Brazil was a major contributor to the UN mission in Haiti) in the hopes of gaining a permanent seat for Brazil on the UNSC. Lula’s relations with the US, under the George W. Bush administration, were not as friendly as they had been under Cardoso (who had gotten along well with Clinton) – Brazil opposed Bush’s FTAA idea, strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Brasília took some stances at odds with American foreign policy (on issues such as Iran, Israel-Palestine). Lula, as one of the key left-wing leaders elected in Latin America’s ‘Pink Wave’ in the 2000s, was friendly to Hugo Chávez and other left-wing regional leaders. But Brazil’s economic and strategic interests in some of these countries – particularly Bolivia and Paraguay – were at odds with the rhetoric of left-wing leaders in those countries (like Bolivia, where Petrobras had $3.5 billion investments when Evo Morales nationalized oil and gas). Lula’s policy with regards to Iran, Cuba and China was criticized by the opposition.

To win and maintain power in Brazil, politicians require to forge broad coalitions inevitably including slimy politicians and venal parties which represent vested interests and/or demand tangible benefits in exchange for their support. Lula’s 2002 coalition included the PT and Alencar’s PL and other small left-wing parties such as the Brazilian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Brasileiro, PSB) – founded in 1985 and later joined by Miguel Arraes, a three-time left-wing governor of Pernambuco (first elected in 1962 in the then-conservative northeastern state, with Communist support, his government forced sugar mill and plantation owners to pay their employees minimum wage and he supported the creation of unions and peasants’ organizations); the Communist Party of Brazil (Partido Comunista do Brasil, PCdoB) – based on the 1962 faction which supported Maoism (later Hoxhaist after 1976, although ironically its Hoxhaist shift coincided with political moderation) and opposed ‘revisionism’ and was famous for bogging down the military regime for years in the Araguaia guerrilla (1969-1976); and the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro, PCB) – the PCdoB’s rival, disputing the legacy of the original Communist Party (founded in 1922) but marginalized by refusing the armed struggle during the military regime, the rise of non-communist trade unionism and later the fall of the Wall (the remaining PCB is now a hardcore left-wing party and abandoned the Lula coalition by 2006). However, Lula needed to seek the support of other parties to gain a congressional majority, meaning that he became reliant on the backing of fickle, venal parties – parts of the PMDB (which had officially backed Serra in 2002), the Progressive Party (Partido Progressista, PP – actually Paulo Maluf’s party and the descendant of the most conservative factions of the old military party, ARENA/PDS) and the Brazilian Labour Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro, PTB – the 1979 refoundation of Getúlio Vargas’ old corporatist workers’ party, and now a slimy ‘party for hire’ which has backed every government since Figueiredo). Some critics of the government claimed that Lula’s social policies only aimed at cosmetic amelioration rather than real changes, stemming from his unwillingness to challenge vested interests (which included the PT’s base in organized labour).

Shortly after taking office, the magazine Época showed that an advisor to José Dirceu (a loyal PT veteran), the then-Minister of the Casa Civil (Chief of Staff) and Lula’s éminence grise, had attempted to extort money for the PT from the sketchy boss of an illegal gambling game (jogo de bicho), Carlinhos Cachoeira. Lula rejected Dirceu’s offer to resign.

A far bigger scandal began in May 2005, when the opposition-aligned news magazine Veja released a video showing the boss of the state postal service negotiating a bribe. As part of the coalition agreement, the boss of the state postal service was nominated by the PTB’s federal deputy Roberto Jefferson, which intended to use control of that agency to milk money out of it. Feeling the pressure, Jefferson, in June 2005, decided to drop a bomb by alleging that the PT, coordinated by Dirceu and other PT apparatchiks, was paying a ‘monthly salaries’ (mensalão) to federal deputies (mostly from the PL, PP, PTB and PMDB) in exchange for their support. According to Jefferson, the elaborate vote-buying scheme (which was, however, not a novel idea in Brazilian politics) was coordinated by José Dirceu, administered by Delúbio Soares (the PT’s treasurer) and the money was handled by Marcos Valério (a PR/advertising businessman who received the money, by diverting resources from ad contracts, private bank loans or milking cash from telecom companies).

Jefferson was later impeached and stripped of his mandate and political rights for 8 years, but the scandal became one of the biggest corruption scandals in modern Brazilian democracy and had a grave impact on Lula’s government. The government and the PT initially denied all allegations, and tried to prevent the formation of a parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) and later, when proof added up, accused Delúbio Soares and Marcos Valério of negotiating loans without the knowledge of the PT leadership, or spinning the scandal as a mere (‘normal’) case of an illegal parallel campaign fund. The PT also tried to paint the opposition parties as hypocritical, pointing out similar vote buying cases involving PSDB politicians (notably the illegal financing, by similar means and with the help of Marcos Valério, of the 1998 reelection campaign of the PSDB governor of Minas Gerais Eduardo Azeredo) and accepted a CPI into the mensalão after extending its mandate to cover vote-buying allegations against the Cardoso administration for the re-election amendment. José Dirceu, however, resigned as Chief of Staff in June 2005 and was stripped of his mandate as federal deputy in December 2005. In July 2005, José Genoíno – a PT deputy and the president of the PT – resigned the party presidency after an aide was arrested with R$200,000 in a bag and $100,000 in underpants; later that month, Delúbio Soares, who had also resigned his party position, was expelled from the PT after taking full responsibility for illegal parallel campaign funds used for the PT’s electoral campaigns. Duda Mendonça, the political marketing guru, told a CPI that the PT had paid him for his services through an offshore account in the Bahamas. The finance minister, Antonio Palocci, was accused of receiving monthly payments from businessmen when he was mayor of Ribeirão Preto (SP). In August, Lula asked the Brazilian people for forgiveness and said that he felt betrayed – there is no definitive proof that Lula knew anything of the bribes being paid by his party to his congressional allies.

The revelation of the mensalão unleashed a wave of public attention into other cases of congressional greed and political corruption. In September, the PP president of the Chamber, Severino Cavalcanti – a corrupt personage whose appeal was based on lobbying for backbenchers’ spoils and privileges – was forced to resign the presidency of the Chamber for taking bribes from a restaurant owner in the Congress building. Cavalcanti, when he was elected to the Chamber’s presidency in February 2005 (replacing PT deputy João Paulo Cunha, accused of participating in the mensalão), had been a dissident from the government benches and beaten a PT deputy backed by the presidency, but by September he had become an ally of the PT in the mensalão scandal in return for a few goodies. He was replaced by PCdoB deputy Aldo Rebelo.

The scandals severely damaged the PT’s reputation, breaking its old (pre-power) reputation as an honest party fighting for less corrupt politics in Brazil. However, by early 2006, the scandal was running out of steam despite attempts by the PT’s opponents to keep it alive. Some other scandals hurt the government in 2006 and in its second term. In March 2006, Palocci was forced to resign after a buildup of reports of financial misbehaviour while he was mayor, that he had received illegal gambling money and that he leaked the bank records of a concierge who told the press about Palocci’s presence at parties organized by associates. Other scandals included a long-running scheme, tolerated by the health ministry, where deputies from small parties took commissions when mayors bought overpriced ambulances; the arrest of PT operatives very close to Lula attempting to illegally purchase an incriminating dossier against José Serra in the 2006 election; an expense scandal involving misuse of corporate credit cards by ministers or the participation of the son of Lula’s Chief of Staff in an influence peddling scheme in September 2010.

The corruption scandals during Lula’s term exposed the business behind Brazilian politics and governing. Deputies, for electoral and political purposes, seek access to pork or access to the spoils. A vast spoils system operates at the top of Brazilian politics – politicians from coalition partners are able to appoint the heads of public agencies or corporations or get their own ministerial portfolios, and proceed to milk the money out of those jobs by receiving contributions from appointed bureaucrats, rigging public tenders and controlling patronage. The mensalão scandal started with such a scheme – as part of the business transaction between the government and the PTB, the PTB appointed the head of the postal service, who was in turn expected to pay monthly bribes to the PTB. José Dirceu, a ‘prime minister’/Rasputin-like éminence grise in Lula’s first administration, was the man responsible for handing out appointments to the PT’s slimy allies. However, despite the intense corruption, Brazilian institutions worked – the government took real steps to increase transparency, independent law enforcement agencies (the federal police, the independent Prosecutor General of the Republic) and the courts did their jobs freely and Brazilian campaign finance legislation is tougher and more transparent than similar legislation in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. Brazilian candidates for all offices must publicly disclose all of their assets to the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the body which administers elections.

Lula was reelected in October 2006. The mess of the mensalão had faded in the minds of most voters, and Lula’s base rewarded him for his social policies. Lula was officially supported by the PT, the PCdoB and the new Brazilian Republican Party (Partido Republicano Brasileiro, PRB), founded by PL dissidents (including Vice President José Alencar) and considered by some as the ‘political arm’ of the evangelical neo-Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), the third-largest evangelical denomination in Brazil and one of the most powerful and controversial evangelical churches (the UCKG is one of the richest religious denominations, owns several media sources, built a humongous replica of the Temple of Solomon in São Paulo and its leader bishop Edir Macedo is a billionaire). He received unofficial backing from the PL, the PSB and most of the PMDB.

His main opponent was the PSDB governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin. Alckmin’s political mentor was Mário Covas, one of the PSDB’s founding members, and he was elected vice-governor of the state of São Paulo as Mário Covas’ running-mate in 1994 (and reelected in 1998). He assumed office as governor in March 2001, after Covas died.  Alckmin was reelected governor in 2002, winning 58.6% in the runoff against José Genoino (PT). Paulo Maluf (PP), the early favourite, was defeated in the first round. After a successful term as governor, Alckmin imposed himself as the PSDB’s presidential candidate over rival claims. Fairly uncharismatic and introverted – he was nicknamed chuchu (a bland green vegetable) – he had trouble taking off. Alckmin’s candidacy was supported by the three main opposition parties: the PSDB, the PFL (which would rename itself ‘Democrats’ or Democratas in 2007 in a bid to modernize its image, as a right-wing liberal party rather than a bunch of old conservative coronels from the Nordeste) and the Popular Socialist Party (Partido Popular Socialista, PPS). The PPS was actually founded in 1992 by reformist dissidents of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), led by Roberto Freire, mimicking the transformation of the Italian PCI into the social democratic PDS (and, like in Italy, a small hardline minority remained communists, in Brazil being led by famous architect Oscar Niemeyer). The PPS opposed FHC’s two governments – supporting Lula in 1994, and then running its own candidate – Ciro Gomes, a former governor of Ceará (1991-1994) and PSDB finance minister (1994-1995), in 1998 and 2002 (11% and 12% respectively), although Gomes (who had become Minister of National Integration in Lula’s cabinet) left the PPS to join the PSB when the PPS left the governing coalition in 2003.

Lula also faced candidacies from two PT dissidents. Heloísa Helena, an outspoken Alagoas senator from the PT’s left, had broken with the PT in 2003 due to major disagreements with the conservative direction of Lula’s economic policies and his opportunistic alliances with corrupt parties. Expelled from the PT in December 2003, she was one of the founding members of the Socialism and Freedom Party (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade, PSOL). Senator Cristovam Buarque, a former PT governor of the DF (1995-1999) and education minister (2003-2004), who left the PT in 2004, ran for the Democratic Labour Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista, PDT). The PDT was founded in 1979, led by veteran leftist politician Leonel Brizola (the brother-in-law of deposed President João Goulart), who as PTB governor of Rio Grande do Sul (1959-1963) and federal deputy for Guanabara (1963-1964) was one of the main players in the highly-charged political debates which led up to the 1964 coup, pressuring Goulart to speed up controversial left-wing reforms including agrarian reforms and regulation of profit remittances by foreign corporations. In exile during the military regime, Brizola returned to Brazil with the amnesty in 1979 and created the PDT after losing the rights to the name PTB to Ivete Vargas, Getúlio Vargas’ grand-niece. In 1989, Brizola placed a close third in the first round of the presidential election (15.5% to Lula’s 16.1%). Brizola and brizolismo remained very powerful in the state of Rio de Janeiro, where he served as governor between 1983 and 1987 and again between 1991 and 1994. Brizola died in 2004. The PSOL and PDT both welcomed dissidents from the PT, as did the smaller Green Party (Partido Verde, PV).

In the first round, Lula won 48.6% against 41.6% for Alckmin, with Heloísa Helena winning 6.9% and Cristovam Buarque receiving only 2.6%. Lula had been widely expected to be reelected by the first round, but suffered from a late swing against him because of the backlash against the PT’s dirty tricks in the fake dossier against José Serra (the PSDB’s candidate for governor of São Paulo) and Lula’s refusal to participate in televised debates against his opponents. Alckmin, on the other hand, finished strong. However, Lula seized the initiative in the runoff campaign and claimed that Alckmin would privatize state-owned corporations and dismantle the Bolsa Familía (largely false accusations, besides the PSDB’s campaign focused on hitting the PT and Lula for corruption). Alckmin was unable to build on his first round result, and the runoff ended up as a Lula blowout: 60.8% to 39.2% for Alckmin, who lost votes from the first round.

Interestingly, the 2006 election was the realigning election in terms of voting patterns and the main coalitions/parties’ bases of support. Whereas in 2002, ‘Lula peace and love’ had fairly evenly distributed support throughout all regions and demographic groups, the 2006 election showed a much more polarized map and electorate. Lula swept the Nordeste with 77% (61.5% in 2002), Brazil’s poorest (and blackest/brownest) region, thanks to massive swings in his favour in the rural regions (particularly the arid and inhospitable sertão, home to the infamous latifúndios) – traditionally under the grip of conservative barons – where poor voters benefited from federal spending and Lula’s social programs. The success of the Lula coalition in the Nordeste has also had repercussions at the congressional and state level, where the PFL/DEM have suffered significant loses in their old regional base. On the other hand, Alckmin won the state of São Paulo and the South, the wealthiest (and whitest) regions of the country. Alckmin won 52.3% in São Paulo (state), which has always been fairly conservative despite being the PT’s cradle, and 53.5% in the South region; in 2002, Lula had won 55.4% in São Paulo and 58.8% in the South. In 2006, there was a clear polarization of voting patterns, with wealth, education and race (to a lesser extent) becoming the key variables. In past elections, such as 1989, there had been similar left-right polarization, but around different variables – in 1989, the main cleavage between Lula and Collor, for example, had been rural-urban.

The PMDB replaced the PT as the largest party in the Chamber of Deputies, while the opposition PSDB and PFL/DEM ranked as the third and fourth largest parties respectively. Paulo Maluf, who was himself elected federal deputy with the highest vote count of any candidate in the country, saw his party, the PP, win 42 seats. The PSB, PDT, PTB, PL, PPS, PV and PCdoB all won over 10 seats in the Chamber. In Amapá, former president José Sarney (PMDB) was reelected to the Senate, where he had been a key backer of the Lula government. In Alagoas, former president Fernando Collor was elected to the Senate for the tiny Partido Renovador Trabalhista Brasileiro (PRTB), although he jumped ship to the PTB within days.

In gubernatorial races, José Serra (PSDB) was elected governor of São Paulo in the first round, taking 57.9% against 31.7% for PT senator Aloizio Mercadante. Mercadante’s campaign, already in poor shape, was killed off by the PT’s fake dossier scandal. In Minas Gerais, popular PSDB governor Aécio Neves, the grandson of Tancredo Neves, was reelected with a huge 77% of the votes against the PT – all while Lula defeated Alckmin in the state, indicating a very strong ‘Lula-Aécio’ vote-splitting campaign, which Aécio tolerated much to the national PSDB’s displeasure. In Rio Grande do Sul, the PT’s Olivío Dutra – one of the party’s founders and the first PT mayor of Porto Alegre (1989-1992) – was unable to regain the office he lost in 2002, losing in the second round to Yeda Crusius (PSDB). In Rio de Janeiro, PMDB senator Sérgio Cabral was easily elected in the second round against right-wing candidate Denise Frossard (PPS). At the time, Cabral was supported by former governor Anthony Garotinho (a party-hopper, who was also PMDB back then) and his wife, outgoing governor Rosinha Garotinho. Garotinho, an evangelical Christian and former ally of Leonel Brizola, is a classic (but clownish) populist who is popular with poorer voters because of his pro-poor policies (meals and hotel nights at the symbolic price of R$1) but disliked by others for his thinly-veiled religious proselytizing and corruption (vote buying, illegal campaign funding). Garotinho, then in the PSB, had run for President in 2002 and placed third with 18% thanks to strong evangelical support. He had unsuccessfully tried to receive the PMDB’s nomination for President in 2006, but a short-lived ‘electoral verticalization’ rule in place at the time which forced parties to have the same alliances at all levels led the PMDB to remain neutral to retain its state-by-state alliances. Although Garotinho had (controversially) endorsed Alckmin in the runoff, Lula supported Cabral.

In Pernambuco, Eduardo Campos (PSB), the grandson of Miguel Arraes and the Minister of Science and Technology (2004-2005), was elected governor in the second round, winning 65.4% against 34.6% for incumbent governor Mendonça Filho (PFL), who had replaced powerful right-wing governor Jarbas Vasconcelos (PMDB) in March 2006. In the first round, the PT’s favourite – health minister Humberto Costa (who had been defeated by Jarbas Vasconcelos in 2002), was defeated, placing a close third. In Maranhão, Roseana Sarney (PFL but pro-Lula) – José Sarney’s daughter – was narrowly defeated in the second round by Jackson Lago (PDT), 48.2% to 51.8%, marking one of the first defeats of the Sarney clan in its own backyard in some 40 years. However, since Lago was soon embroiled in a corruption sting by the federal police, the TSE invalidated all votes cast in his favour in 2009 and Roseana Sarney was proclaimed elected in his stead. In Bahia, the hitherto hegemonic ‘carlist’ machine of ACM (which had ruled without interruption since 1989) suffered an historic – and unexpected – defeat when Jaques Wagner (PT), who had been minister of institutional relations under Lula, defeated incumbent governor Paulo Souto (PFL) in the first round (52.9% to 43%; Souto had led in all polls). In Ceará, incumbent governor Lúcio Alcântara (PSDB) was defeated in a landslide by Cid Gomes (PSB), the brother of Ciro Gomes.

The 2010 elections came at the peak of Lula’s popularity – the outgoing term-limited President had approval ratings over 80% (the highest for any Brazilian President), the economy was performing very well after recovering from a short economic crisis and Lula’s social programs were widely hailed as great successes and best-practices in reducing poverty. Lula handpicked his successor, choosing Dilma Rousseff, who had been Minister of the Casa Civil (Chief of Staff) since Dirceu’s resignation in 2005, and Minister of Mines and Energy prior to that. Dilma, as she is widely referred to in Brazil, was born in a middle-class family in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais) to a Bulgarian father and Brazilian mother in 1947. She was politicized as a student around the time of the 1964 military coup, and joined a non-communist far-left organization and opted for armed resistance (in the Comando de Libertação Nacional and then in VAR-Palmares) although she largely took an underground leadership rather than guerrilla role. As a member of VAR-Palmares, Dilma may have participated in that group’s most famous action – a raid on the safe of Ademar de Barros, an infamously corrupt populist former governor of São Paulo. Dilma was arrested in 1970 and tortured for 22 days, and was finally released from prison in 1972. She never returned to underground resistance, instead opting for non-electoral political activism by way of think-tanks linked to the MDB in Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul). In 1979, Dilma and her husband joined Leonel Brizola’s PDT – her husband was a PDT state deputy from 1982 to 1990 and a two-time unsuccessful mayoral candidate for the PDT in Porto Alegre, losing twice to the PT. Dilma herself never held elected office, serving as a technocratic cabinet member in a municipal administration in Porto Alegre (1985-1988) and then twice as secretary of mines and energy in the state government of Rio Grande do Sul (1993-1994, 1999-2002). Dilma broke with the PDT and joined the PT in 2001, after the short-lived PT-PDT alliance in the state fell apart during the 2000 municipal elections.

Her expertise on energy issues recognized – as well as her pragmatic relations with private businesses – she was appointed Minister of Mines and Energy in Lula’s cabinet. As minister, Dilma respected (and even expanded) all existing contracts with private firms, and her style received praise from the business sector. However, Dilma’s projects to expand the Brazilian electricity infrastructure to prevent another energy crisis often clashed with environment minister Marina Silva’s concern for such projects’ ecological footprints. As minister, she was also responsible for the development of the Luz para Todos (light for all) project, which aimed at providing free access to electricity for poor rural regions. In 2005, after José Dirceu’s resignation, Lula surprised many by appointing Dilma to replace him as his Chief of Staff.

Dilma’s candidacy for the PT as Lula’s preferred successor was in the works as early as 2008 but was only officially announced in June 2010. Dilma’s candidacy was supported by a broad coalition including the PMDB (which provided Dilma’s running-mate, the president of the Chamber of Deputies Michel Temer), PDT, PCdoB, PSB (which withdrew the early candidacy of Ciro Gomes, who only begrudgingly endorsed Dilma after the first round), PRB, the new Republic Party (Partido da República, PR) and three smaller parties including the Social Christian Party (Partido Social Cristão, PSC). The PR, a venal and slimy populist assemblage of various opportunistic politicians, had been founded in 2006 by the merger of the old PL with the remnants of the far-right populist/nationalist PRONA, whose popular and charismatic leader Enéas Carneiro died in 2007.

The main opposition candidate was José Serra, who had served as governor of São Paulo since 2007 and was leaving office with fairly high approval ratings. Serra was supported by the PSDB, DEM, PPS, PTB and two smaller parties.

Marina Silva, who had served as Lula’s environment minister from 2003 to 2008 and had been a member of the PT for over two decades, had quit the PT in 2009, a year after she left cabinet in disagreement with the government’s environmental policies. As noted above, while she was environment minister, she clashed several times with Dilma over environmental policies and conservation. While Lula tried hard to straddle both sides in the environmental protection/economic development debate, some of his policies – such as the São Francisco river diversion project, the push of agribusiness in the rainforest regions and road construction in the rainforest – were criticized by environmentalists, while those leading those projects criticized Marina for delays in the issuing of permits. In 2009, Marina – who had been a PT senator from the Amazonian state of Acre since 1995 – left the PT, which she had joined in 1986, and joined the Green Party (Partido Verde, PV). The Greens had been part of Lula’s coalition in 2002, but left the government in 2005 over environmental policy differences (but Gilberto Gil, the famous Green-aligned singer who was Lula’s culture minister, stayed in). The PV has tended to be one of the more ideologically consistent and principled minor parties, although the PV has been divided between those friendlier to the PT and those more aligned with the PSDB-led right-wing opposition. Fernando Gabeira, a writer famous for his participation in the 1969 kidnapping of the US ambassador served as a PV federal deputy from Rio de Janeiro from 1995 to 2011 (with a brief switch to the PT in 2002-2003) and came very close to becoming mayor of Rio in 2008, and in recent years he has favoured alliances with the right. On the other hand, Sarney Filho – José Sarney’s son and PV federal deputy – began his career in ARENA/PDS and nowadays supports alliances with the PT. Marina became the PV’s candidate, without any other allies.

Marina is an evangelical Christian since 1997, and has some controversial socially conservative views (which are very out of the mainstream for a Green politician) – she is pro-life, opposes same-sex marriage, stem cell research, drug legalization and expressed sympathy for creationist views.

The candidates differed little on issues such as monetary and fiscal policy (both Serra and Dilma supporting the existing macroeconomic framework and orthodox policies), while clashing on questions such as the role of the state in the economy and foreign policy.

Dilma’s support, which was as low at 3% in 2008, shot up instantly as Lula started actively campaigning for her as his anointed successor in May 2010. With the beginning of free electoral programming in August 2010, Dilma had an unassailable lead over Serra’s faltering campaign and was set to win by the first round until the last week as Marina rapidly gained in the polls (8-10% since the beginning of the year, she began gaining in the last stretch). In the first round, Dilma underperformed and won 46.9%, while both Serra and Marina overperformed their polling: Serra won 32.6% and Marina came out as the real winner, with 19.3%. Marina managed to build an unusual composite coalition with middle-class socially liberal urban bobo voters and conservative evangelical voters.

Serra managed to build a stronger campaign in the runoff, while Dilma faced a wave of attacks from Serra concerning her inexperience and from religious leaders who alleged that she was personally pro-choice (she clarified that she would not touch Brazil’s restrictive abortion laws). Nevertheless, Dilma was handily elected, with 56% of the vote.

Dilma’s coalition won a three-fifths majority in the Chamber and the Senate, with the PT replacing the PMDB as the largest party in the lower house. On the right, the PSDB, PPS and especially DEM all suffered substantial loses in Congress. The most voted candidate for the Chamber in the county was Tiririca (PR), a professional clown and singer-songwriter, who basically ran a protest joke campaign and managed 1.348 million votes (the second-highest all-time number of votes for a candidate, after PRONA’s Enéas Carneiro in 2002). Upon his election, he faced serious questions about his literacy and was forced to pass a literacy test. His support, plus that of Anthony Garotinho (also from the PR, and the second-most voted candidate in Brazil), allowed the PR to win 41 seat, making it the fifth largest party in the Chamber.

In Minas Gerais’ senate race, term-limited governor Aécio Neves (PSDB) and former President Itamar Franco (PPS) were elected to the Senate. In the gubernatorial contest in MG, Aécio’s successor Antônio Anastasia was elected to a full term with over 62% in the first round. In São Paulo, in an amusing game of musical-chairs, Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) was elected to succeed Serra as governor, with 50.6% in the first round. Aloysio Nunes (PSDB), a former federal deputy and justice minister under FHC, was elected to the first seat in the Senate with a surprisingly massive vote (he broke the existing record for the highest number of votes for any senatorial candidate in Brazil); the second seat went to Marta Suplicy (PT), a former mayor of São Paulo (2000-2004) but her co-candidate and presumed favourite, singer and TV star Netinho de Paula (PCdoB), was narrowly defeated after a story of domestic assault. In Rio de Janeiro, incumbent PMDB governor Sérgio Cabral was reelected with two-thirds of the vote against 20.7% for right-wing candidate Fernando Gabeira (PV). Lindberg Farias (PT), a former student leader and key player in the 1992 caras-pintadas movement for Collor’s impeachment, was elected to the Senate with the most votes while incumbent Senator Marcelo Crivella (PRB), a UCKG bishop and gospel singer, was reelected. In Rio Grande do Sul, PSDB governor Yeda Crusius’ administration became a trainwreck before it even began in 2007 (broken promises, corruption allegations, coalition infighting) so she was handily defeated (18.4% and third) while Tarso Genro (PT), was elected in the first round. In the DF, the DEM governor elected in 2006 – José Arruda – had been arrested while in office and later impeached after a vast corruption scandal (the mensalão do DEM). Former federal deputy Agnelo Queiroz (PT), hardly cleaner himself, was elected in the runoff with 66% of the votes against the wife of another corrupt former governor Joaquim Roriz (PSC).

In the Nordeste, the old right-wing barons suffered some major defeats. In Bahia, PT governor Jaques Wagner was reelected in a landslide (63.4%) despite having broken with the PMDB. In Pernambuco, governor Eduardo Campos (PSB) was one of the most popular governors in the country, so he was reelected with a phenomenal 82.8% against Jarbas Vasconcelos. In the senatorial contest, veteran PFL/DEM senator and former Vice President Marco Maciel was defeated in a landslide, with both seats going to the left (including one to the PT’s Humberto Costa). In Ceará, in what was perhaps one of the most unexpected result, popular PSDB senator Tasso Jereissati was defeated after Lula campaigned strongly against him. In Alagoas, incumbent governor Teo Vilela Filho (PSDB) was ultimately narrowly reelected in the second round of an exciting gubernatorial race which saw a fierce first round battle with senator/impeached President Collor (PTB) and Collor’s nemesis, former two-term governor Ronaldo Lessa (PDT). Collor was narrowly defeated by Lessa for second place in the first round (28.8% to 29.2%, with 39.6% for the incumbent), but despite an unholy alliance with Collor, Lessa was defeated in the second round. In the senatorial contest, incumbent senator Renan Calheiros (PMDB) had no problems with reelection, despite a major scandal in 2007 (Renangate: a business was accused of making payments to Renan’s ex-mistress, with whom he had an illegitimate daughter). He had narrowly survived an impeachment vote following that scandal. In Maranhão, despite another wave of corruption allegations hitting the Sarney clan (José Sarney was by then back as President of the Senate), governor Roseana Sarney (PMDB) was reelected in the first round.

Dilma’s presidency

Upon her election, Dilma – like Lula in 2002 – reiterated her commitment to follow Lula’s macroeconomic policy. Alexandre Tombini, another supporter of low-inflation policies, replaced Meirelles as President of the Central Bank, while Guido Mantega – a more ‘developmentalist’ petista, stayed on as finance minister (a post he has held since 2006).

Dilma’s cabinet was the product of a tricky balancing act, in which she needed to please every part of her broad coalition. Most ministerial portfolios went to the PT – including key ones such as finance, justice, education, health and industry – but the PT’s allies were rewarded with some portfolios. The PMDB, for example, received the Ministry of Social Security, the ministry with the highest operating budget. The PMDB, however, was disappointed with the meager clutch of ministries awarded to them. The PR received transportation, the PCdoB retained sports, the PDT got labour and the PRB received fisheries and aquaculture. These smaller parties, as it turned out, came to feel that they ‘owned’ these ministries and treated them as their private property. The President also has over 25,000 jobs in boards, agencies, state-owned firms and public institutions in her gift – although the government has insisted that these jobs largely go to professional civil servants, the truth is that a lot of these jobs are patronage posts used to reward allies. Antonio Palocci, dismissed as finance minister in 2006 following a scandal, returned to a highly powerful position as Dilma’s Chief of Staff (Minister of the Casa Civil)

After the booming economy in the last year(s) of Lula’s term, the economy was clearly overheating and Brazil’s structural economic problems became clearer. In 2011, the economy grew by only 2.7%, the slowest growth rate in South America and lower than any of Brazil’s other BRICS partners. Inflation was also fairly high as Dilma took office, and inflation hit 6.5% – the upper limit of inflation set by the Central Bank – in 2011. The government raised interest rates from 10.75% to 11.25% (with further increases to 12.5% by summer 2011), increased the minimum wage to R$545/month and cut the federal budget by R$50 billion – all measures adopted in order to cool the overheating economy and reduce inflation. Critics, however, pointed out that Dilma did little to slow the hectic increase in federal spending (which has been growing since Lula), especially on salaries, pensions and resources for the BNDES (the national development bank) for loans on infrastructure projects. In 2010, a large part of the huge GDP growth had come from the typical pre-election binge spending by all levels of government.

The government continued the social programs which had made Lula so popular, again aimed at improving the standard of living for low-income Brazilians. In March 2010, the government renewed the Growth Acceleration Program (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento, PAC) as PAC-2, continuing the federal government’s large public works and infrastructure stimulus program first introduced in 2007 (Dilma, as Chief of Staff, had been a key player in the launch of the first PAC in 2007). PAC-2 foresaw R$1.59 trillion investments on a range of government projects and public works, including projects such as Minha Casa, Minha Vida (aimed at providing 2 million homes by 2014, 60% of them to poor families). In 2011, the government launched Brasil sem Miséria, a social program (in reality an expansion of the Bolsa Familía) aimed at removing 16.2 million people from ‘extreme poverty’ (living on less than R$70 per month) and ensuring that all welfare recipients have a monthly household per-person income over R$70Other programs included support to microentrepreneurship, construction of cisterns for consumption and agriculture and ‘Science without Borders’ (funding 75,000 scholarships for post-secondary students to study STEM subjects abroad). Official sources claim that the government’s anti-poverty programs and initiatives have been very successful at alleviating poverty, improving poor families’ living conditions, empowering women, expanding education and improving health outcomes.

Early in her first term, Dilma continued her predecessor’s moderate economic policies, much to the chagrin of forces further left and the PT’s traditional allies in organized labour. A notable example came with airports – passenger numbers have expanded in recent years, and the organization of major international sporting events – the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics – required larger, modern and well-managed airport. Brazilian airports are managed by Infraero, a state-owned company under the Ministry of Defense which is a byword for bureaucratic obstruction and mismanagement. In April 2011, the government announced that it would grant concessions to private companies to manage some of Brazil’s largest airports. Thus far, 6 major airports (Natal, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Campinas, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Rio de Janeiro-Galeão) are administered by private companies with concessions with minority participation (49%) by Infraero in 5 of them.

The government also cut payroll taxes for selected industries, widened a scheme which allows small businesses to use a simplified system for filing tax returns, worked to rationalize interstate taxes and sought to improve productivity by offering more scholarships and technical training.

Public spending on pensions and old age dependency in Brazil and other major economies (source: The Economist, Sept. 28, 2013)

One policy area which is of growing urgency for the federal government is pensions – Brazil has an absurdly generous constitutionally-entrenched pension system for private and public sector workers. Brazil spends about 11% of its GDP on pensions – slightly less than Italy and France, but far more than the UK, Canada or the US; all countries which have a much older population than Brazil. The pension system is extremely generous – for old age pensions on full pay with a high cap, private sector workers need only contribute for 15 years and work until 65 (men)/60 (women), with the possibility for a slightly less generous pension if one has contributed for 35 (men)/30 (women) years. Public sector workers have it even better – with a slightly earlier retirement age (60 and 55, only for those hired since a 1998 reform which increased the retirement ages from 53 and 48), and a minimum of 10 years of work (before 1998, there wasn’t even a vesting period). Contribution rates are very high, which may discourage formal employment.

There is a very strong re-distributive element in the pension system – there are exemptions from contributions and reduced contribution rates for low-wage earners, and a guaranteed right to a minimum monthly pension of R$678 to poor men and women (above the ages of 65 and 60) even if they have never contributed. Rural workers, regardless of income, can retire earlier and get R$622 per month without ever contributing. All pensions must exceed the minimum wage, which increases every year. Finally, bereaved spouses – unlike in almost every other country – get the full sum of the deceased’s pension (even if they were not retired) for the rest of their lives. On the whole, Brazilians – on average – can retire on 70% of final pay at 54, compared to 61 in Greece (whose pension system was held as one of the culprits for the crisis). As a result, the pension fund has a large deficit.

In contrast, while Brazil spends a lot on pensions (roughly half of the federal budget goes to pension, with another large chunk for salaries), it spends very little on infrastructure, investments and children. Therefore, old age poverty is less of an issue, but child poverty is a major problem in Brazil. Children-oriented benefits are sparse and meager – the means-tested Bolsa Família grants only average R$155 per month. Reforms to the pension system are seen as inevitable, but they remain very tough – partly because the constitution guarantees lots of rights to workers and pensioners, partly because it requires a lot of political capital. In February 2012, Congress passed a reform which caps the defined-benefits plans of future federal government employees at the private sector’s levels (R$3916 per month). In 2013, the government was forced to abandon a reform which would include a minimum retirement age. Many analysts insist that further, tougher reforms are necessary – The Economist proposed a minimum retirement age, less generous benefits (which are currently constitutionally tied to the minimum wage) and is critical of the yearly increases in the minimum wage (it is increased by the sum of the previous year’s inflation and GDP growth from the year before that), but admitted that such changes are unlikely to find much congressional support.

In her first years in office, Dilma faced an avalanche of scandals coming from her cabinet. In June 2011, Antonio Palocci, the Chief of Staff, was forced to resign after an unexplained 20-fold increase in his personal wealth as a result of consultancy work. Taking advantage of the government’s weakness, the PMDB in Congress took the opportunity to defy the government by granting an amnesty for illegal logging prior to 2008; while the ‘evangelical bench’ (a caucus of evangelical congressmen) forced the government to drop plans for anti-homophobia education in schools. In July 2011, Veja revealed a corruption scheme in the Ministry of Transportation, under Alfredo Nascimento (PR-AM), with the the PR demanding a 4% kickback from contractors interested in government contracts – the money went to fill the PR’s treasury or ‘commissions’ to congressmen from states where those contracts would be. Nascimento resigned quickly, but a rather pissed off PR stopped actively supporting the government. In August 2011, the Minister of Agriculture Wagner Rossi (PMDB-SP) was forced to resign after investigations revealed that a ‘criminal organization’ existed under his eyes in his ministry (according to the Federal Police). Rossi was accused of being chummy with lobbyists, covering up bribes and electoral crimes and using public funds to pay off the debts of private companies. In August 2011, a police raid dismantled a scheme to divert public funds in the Ministry of Tourism, and Sarney ally Pedro Novais (PMDB-MA) was forced to resign the portfolio. In August 2011, the Minister of Cities, Mário Negromonte (PP-BA) became mixed up in a corruption scheme (bribing congressmen to support him in an internal conflict in the PP) and, later, other corruption accusations forced him to resign in February 2012. In October 2011, the Minister of Sports Orlando Silva (PCdoB-SP) was accused of using the ministry to provide a funding stream, charging kickbacks to offer contracts or funneling them towards affiliated businesses and NGOs, and he was personally accused of receiving kickbacks in return for directing funds to corrupt contractors under a program intended to bring sports facilities to children in poor areas. The scheme allegedly began under Agnelo Queiroz (PT-DF), the Minister of Sports from 2003 to 2006 (as a member of the PCdoB at the time) and governor of the DF since 2010. To save Agnelo, the PT negotiated Orlando Silva’s resignation but the PCdoB retained the sports ministry with Aldo Rebelo. In November 2011, the Minister of Labour Carlos Lupi (PDT-RJ) was accused of charging kickbacks for contracts, extorting NGOs, siphoning off public funds to semi-phantom NGOs and accepting flights from a contractor. Lupi initially denied any wrongdoing or any flights, but was forced to resign when that was proven to be a lie.

Dilma’s tough stance against corrupt ministers – even if, in reality, she only forced them out when things were far too hot for her – was popular, and her approval ratings were very high throughout 2011 and most of 2012.

In 2012, a Federal Police investigation revealed close links between illegal gambling boss Carlos Cachoeira (arrested by the police operation in February 2012) and politicians from both the government and opposition in the Centre-West region. Top among them was opposition senator Demóstenes Torres (DEM-GO), accused of using his influence and power to advocate for Cachoeira’s business interests in exchange for gifts and money; Demóstenes left his party and became the second senator to be impeached by his colleagues in July 2012. A CPI into the Cachoeira case looked at links between the gambling boss and governor Marconi Perillo (PSDB-GO), governor Agnelo Queiroz (PT-DF), governor Sérgio Cabral (PMDB-RJ), deputies from several parties (PT, PP, PPS, PCdoB, PTB, PSDB) and bureaucrats.

In a welcome blow to the tradition of impunity for political corruption, there was finally judicial action on the mensalão case from Lula’s first term. The process was, as is usually the case in Brazil, very drawn-out and convoluted: in April 2006, the Prosecutor General of the Republic had indicted 40 people for crimes including racketeering, embezzlement, money laundering, bribery and tax evasion; the STF received most of the accusations and began a trial in August 2007 and the STF finally handed down sentences in September 2012. The three leading political masterminds – José Dirceu, Delúbio Soares and José Genoino were found guilty and sentenced to jail (Dirceu received 10 years and 10 months); Marcos Valério was found guilty and sentenced to over 40 years in jail and two other of his associates also received very long jail sentences. After a final round of appeals, in March 2014, the STF reduced Dirceu’s sentence to 7 years and 11 months in a ‘semi-open’ jail regime (Genoino got 4 years 8 months, and Delúbio Soares got 6 years and 8 months) and Marcos Valério’s sentence was reduced to 37 years and 5 months in a closed regime. João Paulo Cunha (PT-SP), who was President of the Chamber during the scandal (2003-2005) and had been accused of receiving money from Marcos Valério, was finally sentenced to 6 years and 4 months in jail. Senior managers from the private Banco Rural and the state-controlled Banco do Brasil were also convicted of fraud and money-laundering.

Growth slowed significantly in 2012, with only 1% GDP growth while inflation remained in the upper band with 5.84%. Controversially, in August 2011, the Central Bank – allegedly pushed by the government – decided to reduce interest rates by 0.5%, to 12%. By October 2012, the Central Bank had cuts its interest rates even further, to an all-time low of 7.25%. The opposition claimed that the Central Bank was losing its independence and succumbing to the government’s push for lower interest rates. The image of the government publicly ‘bullying’ the Central Bank to cut interest rates, undermined Brazil’s reputation for macroeconomic orthodoxy in the eyes of investors and markets lost trust in Dilma. The poor growth rates for 2012 came as a shock to the government, and were partly the product of a fall in investments despite policies to reduce business costs, lower interest rates and Central Bank interventions to engineer a 20% fall in the real’s value.

The primary surplus worsened in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, the government recorded a primary surplus (before interest payments) of 2.39% of GDP, missing the 3.1% target. Besides, the government has tended to engage in (legal) creative accounting to fudge the surplus figures in the past. In 2013, the primary surplus fell to only 1.9%. Many analysts were also worried about the government’s plans to loosen up the praised 2000 fiscal responsibility law, passed by FHC’s administration, which puts ‘breaks’ on excessive spending by all levels of government and requiring accountability from governments.  The trade balance also worsened beginning in 2011-2012. From 2001 to 2012, Brazil ran regular trades surpluses primarily due to the export of mining and agricultural products (soybeans). In 2013, the country started recording trade deficits mainly due to the high exports of consumption products and the growing weight of fuel imports.

Responding to the economic slowdown, the government introduced some short-term protectionist measures while taking modest steps towards more constructive longer-term reforms. In September 2011, it imposed higher taxes on imported cars, in a bid to force foreign carmakers to build factories in Brazil. In 2012, Dilma announced that the government would grant concessions to private companies to invest in roads and railways; inviting them to build, upgrade and operate toll roads and railways. However, in 2013, the auctions were delayed because of the government’s unwillingness to allow a competitive return alienated investors. On top of that, the government had trouble extracting support from Congress – it took typical arm-twisting and pork to get congressmen to approve a law increasing competition and private investment in crowded ports (private ports can now handle third-party cargo and hire their own staff rather than casual workers from the dockworkers’ union).

Dilma’s government also proved quite defiant to public sector workers’ demands for higher wages – teachers and professors in federal universities went on strike in 2012, demanding a substantial pay raise, and the movement was joined by the federal police and other public servants. In the end, they were granted an inflation-only offer of 15.8% over three years. These strikes were led by the CUT, the largest union confederation historically closely linked to the PT.

The custo Brasil (source: The Economist, Sept. 28, 2013)

With rising interest rates in 2013 – inflation reached 5.91% that year, again in the upper range of the Central Bank’s band – the Central Bank finally increased interest rates beginning in April 2013, gradually reaching the current level of 11.25%. The government was initially reluctant to increase interest rates, and tried to control inflation by cutting sales taxes and holding down the price of basic necessities. Some of the government’s anti-inflation policy initiatives were criticized as amateurish and bad for other sectors of the economy – keeping oil prices low weakened Petrobras and the sugarcane ethanol industry, electorally-motivated electricity subsidies and rate cuts have led to fears that Brazil may face another electricity shortage. In late 2013, the government moved to tighten credit, by announcing that it would stop capitalizing the national development bank (BNDES)

One of the major factors holding down the Brazilian economy and weakening the country’s competitiveness is the custo Brasil – the high cost of doing business in Brazil, because of factors including excessive red tape (a long delay to start a business), a slow bureaucracy, the high tax burden (Brazil’s tax burden, at about 38% of GDP, is the second-highest in Latin America after Argentina), high export/import costs, expensive labour costs, high electricity prices, poor infrastructure, high interest rates and economic cartels. Dilma’s government promised to reduce the custo Brasil and repeatedly floated several ideas, but ultimately was able to do very little: nothing came of promises for broad-based tax cuts or abolishing taxes on electricity.

Infrastructure, as noted above, is a major weakness in the Brazilian economy. Brazilian roads, airports, railways and ports are commonly described as being in disastrous shape with little government investment (indeed – the feds spend only 1.5% of GDP on infrastructure). A McKinsey Global Institute report on infrastructure worldwide measured the total value of Brazil’s ‘infrastructure stock’ at only 16%, extremely low compared to a worldwide average of 71% (or 64% in the US, 58% in Canada and 57% in the UK). Obviously, this has ramifications on the economy – Brazilian producers, like farmers, spend far more than their counterparts abroad on transportation costs.

More broadly, the lack of investments weakens the Brazilian economy and, as the electricity crisis in FHC’s last term showed, may have disastrous effects. Because the government can not, constitutionally, shrink pensions or cut the public sector, the ax falls on investments. Even when there are investments, the results are often seen as disappointing – the result of Lula’s first PAC (the big state-led public works program) were disappointing, and state-run companies like Infraero mismanage their investment budgets so little of it actually gets spent properly.

Brazil came to the fore of international attention in June 2013 – not because of the FIFA Confederations Cup, but rather because of the huge wave of popular protests throughout Brazil’s largest cities (described as the largest protest wave in Brazil since the 1992 Fora Collor movement for Collor’s impeachment). The movement began in São Paulo with the Movimento Passe Livre‘s protests against public transit fare hikes (although similar protests on the same subject had already been organized in other cities in 2012 and early 2013) – the city’s newly-elected mayor Fernando Haddad (PT) had announced a fare increase from R$3 to R$3.2 (costs had been frozen for the municipal elections in 2012 and a January fee hike delayed to help the feds massage the inflation figures), sparking protests in early June. The ‘first phase’ of the protests, largely in São Paulo but spreading fitfully to other cities, were more violent, focused quasi-exclusively on transportation/transit and had little sympathy from the press or the population. The conservative media decried the MPL as radical leftist activists with unrealistic aims, and urged the police to crack down. Commuters were originally hardly fond of disturbances caused by the young protesters. However, on June 13, a brutal and excessive crackdown by São Paulo’s military police completely changed the situation – the movement became national, it transformed from a single-issue movement to broad-based protests of dissatisfaction (similar to the Turkish protests in 2013) and the public overwhelmingly sided with the protests.

Beginning on June 17 until the end of the month, and coinciding with the FIFA Confederations Cup, there were huge protests in cities throughout Brazil – with the biggest crowds in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Porto Alegre, Goiânia, Vitória and Recife – with the biggest rallies on June 18 (430,000), June 20 (1.5 million) and June 21 (330,000).

The immediate cause of the mass protest movement was police repression and brutality in São Paulo and other cities on June 13, when the military police used stun grenades, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas to indiscriminately disperse protesters leading to hundreds of arrests and numbers of wounded protesters and journalists. In the second phase, the aims of the protests became more diffuse – demanding less corruption, better public services, control of inflation and protesting the high spending on the FIFA Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup. The 2014 FIFA World Cup was the most expensive tournament in the history of the World Cup, at a cost of about US$ 14 billion, compared to US$4 billion in South Africa 2010. The lavish (over)spending on the World Cup and the construction of five new stadiums in host cities was one of the major criticisms of the protesters, contrasting the binge spending on first-class stadiums (some in cities, like Manaus, which will struggle to use the stadiums after the World Cup) with the low spending on public services. Economic causes for the protests included the high taxes (with the sentiment that taxpayers get little in return), public transit costs for low-income workers and increased inflation eating into Brazilians’ purchasing power. Political causes included widespread corruption, congressional incompetence and impunity and controversial legislation. Protesters demanded the rejection of PEC 37, a constitutional amendment which would reduce prosecutors’ powers to investigate politicians; and a ‘gay cure law’ (allowing psychologists to consider homosexuality as an ‘illness’ and prescribe ‘gay cure therapy’) which had been approved by the Chamber’s Commission on Human Rights and Minorities, chaired by noted racist and homophobic neo-Pentecostal pastor Marco Feliciano (PSC-SP). Other protesters also called for the resignation of the President of the Senate, Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL), who had survived an impeachment vote after the 2007 Renangate scandal (allegations that a lobbyist had paid maintenance on his behalf to a mistress with whom he had had a child, and that he then faked receipts for the sale of cattle to try to prove that he could have afforded to pay her himself). The protests had a marked anti-partisan or non-partisan tone, although many protesters, of middle-class background, had left-wing views.

After politicians and the conservative press dismissed the first wave of protesters as radical vandals who needed to be roughed up, the government and Dilma tried to embrace the protest movement and Dilma claimed that she understood the demands of protesters. Lula claimed that the PT had been wrong to distance itself from young people, and was now paying the price. São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad (PT-SP) and Rio mayor Eduardo Paes (PMDB-RJ) both met with protesters in their cities and proposed freezing public transit fares. On June 21, Dilma called a meeting with the top brass of the state including ministers, Vice President Michel Temer and the President of the Chamber Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN) and Dilma addressed the nation in a televised address that evening. She promised to improve public services, bring foreign doctors to expand the universal healthcare service (SUS), meet with leaders of the peaceful protests, allocate oil royalties to education and healthcare (a proposal rejected by Congress in 2012) and said that government loans for stadiums would be paid back in full and that they didn’t come from the ordinary budget (but rather in the form of subsidized credits from the BNDES to construction firms – who, as it happens, are big contributors to political parties). After meeting with the MPL, mayors and state governors, Dilma later announced five key commitments: investments in public transit, continuing measures to control inflation and ensure economic stability, acceleration of investments in healthcare and attracting doctors to work in remote and poor regions for the SUS, 100% of oil royalties for education/healthcare and political reform including a constituent assembly, declaring corruption a felony (rather than misdemeanor) and a plebiscite on constitutional reform. The next day, however, the likely unconstitutional proposal for a constituent assembly was shelved in favour of a plebiscite (Dilma had apparently decided on a constituent assembly without consultation). Dilma met with union leaders, but was unsuccessful in getting them to call off a general strike for July 11 and union leaders left the meeting angry that the government had used the meeting to boast their plans rather than listen to the unions’ demands (which included 10% of GDP for healthcare, 10% of GDP for education, 40h work week, agrarian reform, political reform, investments in public transit, democratization of the media etc).

Congress suddenly stopped being their usual grubby and self-interested selves, and passed legislation which made corruption a heinous crime, soundly rejected PEC 37 and killed off the ‘gay cure law’. The government moved forward with proposals for a plebiscite (in Brazil, a plebiscite is understood as being before the creation of a law and the people approves or rejects a question; a referendum, which the opposition wanted, is held after the passage of a law to ratify it) – with ideas including campaign finance reform, electoral reform and anti-corruption measures. However, as the protests died down in July and politicians got back to being themselves, the idea for a plebiscite was all but forgotten. The parties disagreed on what form political and electoral reform should take – the PT supports public financing of campaigns and closed-list PR, the PMDB is split on electoral reform but some may favour single-member FPTP while the PSDB supports MMP. No major party seriously supports abolishing the over-representation of states in the Chamber (as it would require a constitutional amendment).

The protest wave died down, however, at the end of June – although some smaller protests occurred in July and once again in the run-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The June 2013 protests, with hindsight, became a clear before-after moment for Dilma’s presidency. Since taking office, Dilma enjoyed high approval ratings – in 2012 and early 2013, over 60% of respondents evaluated her performance as ‘good/very good’, about 30% as ‘regular’ and only 5-7% as ‘bad/very bad’. She had wide approval across party lines, even on the centre-right. On June 6-7 2013, Datafolha (a major pollster) pegged her approval at 57% good, 33% regular and 9% bad. On June 27-28, the same pollster showed that her approval collapsed to 30% good, 43% regular and 25% bad. Although her ‘bad’ ratings declined in the last months of 2013 and her ‘good’ ratings moved up to 40%, she has never reached the same pre-protest approval levels.

In July 2013, Dilma launched the Mais Médicos (more doctors) program to attract doctors to work in under-served remote regions and the peripheries of major cities (the general spatial pattern in Brazilian urban areas is that the peripheries are poor, while the inner city core is the most middle-class – this is especially the case in São Paulo). Given that the government’s efforts, through various incentives, to attract Brazilian med school grads and doctors to work in remote regions were woefully unsuccessful, it effectively turned towards foreign countries – in particular, Cuba. The Brazilian government signed a contract with the Cuban government to bring Cuban medical professionals to work in Brazil, under controversial contracts negotiated by the Cuban and Brazilian governments (the doctors were paid US$1,000, which was sent to the Cuban government which returned only 40% to the doctors). The program was criticized by the opposition, the Brazilian Medical Association and the Federal Council of Medicine, but public opinion was generally narrowly in favour. Some credited the increase in Dilma’s approval ratings in late 2013 to the program.

Economic indicators did not improve in 2013 or 2014, although growth stood at 2.3% in 2013. Inflation clocked in at 5.91% in 2013 and monthly inflation numbers in 2014 have suggested that inflation will again be quite high this year. Brazil’s trade balance worsened, even registering a deficit in the first two months of 2014 and again in September 2014. In February 2014, finance minister Guido Mantega announced a budget including R$44 billion in spending cuts and 1.9% target for primary surplus (which analysts are now saying Brazil will miss).

Brazil successfully hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Although public opinion was mixed-to-negative about the event prior to the kickoff in June 2014, most became supportive once it got underway and concerns about the risk of a ‘fiasco’ or disaster were proved wrong. Of course, Brazil was shaken by its 7-1 humiliation (Mineiraço) against Germany in the semi-final in Belo Horizonte, but there were almost no riots in the aftermath and it had no political impact (there was certainly some speculation that, in football-crazy Brazil, Dilma could be hurt by the Seleção’s defeat).

2014 election: Candidates, Issue and Campaign

Dilma ran for reelection. Dilma was elected in 2010 largely thanks to her mentor and predecessor’s popularity (especially with poor Brazilians in the Nordeste) and the good shape of the Brazilian economy at the time, although it was already clear in 2010 that Dilma was a strong personality herself and would not be a ‘pawn’ of Lula. Nevertheless, immediately after her victory, many wondered if Lula would run again for a third non-consecutive term in 2014 and that Dilma would only be a placeholder for the four-year term. However, Dilma slowly emerged from Lula’s shadow and proved herself – although less bold in its gestures, her government was more technocratic, feminine, personally loyal and firmer in its principles than Lula’s administration was. Although in the first year in office, Dilma’s ministers mostly got in the news for scandals, the appointments of capable and competent ministers like Eleonora Menicucci (who had shared a jail cell with Dilma in the 1970s) as women’s minister and Marco Antonio Raupp (a respected economist) as science minister were well received. Lula himself was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in October 2011 and underwent treatment and chemo (he cut his hair and beard, a dramatic change in his appearance), and was fully recovered in the spring of 2012.

Lula has retained an active role in politics since 2010. In the 2012 municipal elections, Lula used his power as unofficial party boss in São Paulo to sideline former PT mayor Marta Suplicy in favour of education minister Fernando Haddad (who he felt could have a stronger appeal to middle-class voters) and Lula actively promoted Haddad as his candidate – as a result of his campaigning, Haddad moved from 7% in the first polls into a three-way tie for first in the last poll, and ended up a strong second in the first round with 29% against 30.8% for José Serra (PSDB) and only 21.6% for initial frontrunner Celso Russomano (PRB). In the second round, Haddad soundly defeated Serra (55.6% to 44.4%), despite São Paulo being a conservative city (his victory also owed a lot to Serra’s unpopularity, being seen as an old politician who doesn’t know when to stop and one with little loyalty to the jobs he holds). Lula handpicking Fernando Haddad was initially seen as a potentially disastrous move, but in the end it was a masterful act of genius from a remarkable political operator. Despite his keen interest in politics, Lula repeatedly denied interest in a 2014 candidacy and reiterated his full support for Dilma on several occasions.

Although Dilma never recovered from June 2013, she remained seen as the favourite for reelection in 2014 given her resilient base of support and the weakness of the opposition, which struggled to profit from the protests. Certainly the leading opposition party, the PSDB, was unable to profit much from the protests because it too was identified as part of the corrupt political system and São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin initially supported a hardline policy against the protesters. The PSDB’s administration in São Paulo was also hit by a corruption investigation – companies building and maintaining train and metro lines were suspected of having formed a cartel and defrauding the state of hundreds of millions of reais.

One of the few politicians who stood to gain from the protests was Marina Silva, the Green candidate in 2010. Marina, however, left the PV in June 2011 and launched a new political platform, Rede Sustentabilidade, in January 2013 with the clear aim of getting the party registered with the TSE and running for president in 2014. However, in October 2013, one year before the election, the TSE denied her party’s registration because it had failed to gather the required signatures (492,000).

Dilma had difficult relations with her ‘base’ in Congress throughout her administration, having to deal with prickly and conceited allies who often threw fits when they were unhappy with something. The PMDB, as it usually does, threatened to ditch the PT several times – mostly to extract more concessions from the government. The PT managed to get the corrupt PR back on board before the election.

A key player in the 2010 coalition, the PSB – led by the ambitious and wildly popular governor of Pernambuco Eduardo Campos – began asserting its independence from the PT and the government as early as 2011 and speculation about Campos’ presidential ambitions were commonplace in 2012. The PSB did well in the 2012 municipal elections, with key victories over the PT in Recife, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Cuiabá and Campinas. In Belo Horizonte, PSB mayor Márcio Lacerda was also supported by the state’s popular former governor and likely 2014 candidate senator Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG). As governor of Pernambuco, Eduardo Campos was a pragmatic reformist – he reformed education, extended the school day, attracted a host of new industries to the state, opened new hospitals, teamed up with NGOs and the private sector to reform education and healthcare, challenged public sector unions, worked to tackle poverty, emphasized government transparency and implemented several successful and internationally-recognized programs to tackle gender inequality or crime. As a result of his competent administration, the state enjoyed solid growth, educational outcomes improved, infant mortality decreased, life expectancy increased and the homicide rate fell significantly. To his critics, however, Campos had the trappings of a (modern) Northeastern coronel – at any rate, Campos was a rather skilled and wily politician.

Campos’ presidential candidacy and the PSB’s break from the coalition elicited opposition from the other leading PSB coronels in the Nordeste – the Gomes brothers in Ceará (governor Cid Gomes and his brother Ciro Gomes), who supported Dilma. Ironically, Ciro Gomes had wanted to be the PSB’s presidential candidate in 2010 but his candidacy was shoved aside by PSB leaders who supported Dilma, much to his displeasure. The Gomes brothers joined the Republican Party of Social Order (Partido Republicano da Ordem Social, PROS), a nondescript party which had been founded in 2010.

On the other hand, a group of dissidents from the DEM, PSDB and PP led by the former DEM mayor of São Paulo Gilberto Kassab (2006-2012) moved towards the government and formed the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrático, PSD) in March 2011. The PSD’s ranks also included the governor of Santa Catarina Raimundo Colombo (ex-DEM), senator and agriculturalist Kátia Abreu (PSD-TO), veteran politician and São Paulo vice-governor Guilherme Afif Domingos (ex-DEM).

Dilma‘s national coalition for reelection included the PT, the PMDB (with Vice President Michel Temer as her running-mate once more), the PSD, the PP, the PR, the PCdoB, the PDT, the PRB and the Gomes brothers in the PROS.

Dilma’s campaign focused heavily on the Lula/Dilma record since 2003 – the manifesto submitted to the TSE read like a thorough grocery list of the governments’ achievements in a number of fields, most significant among them being: nearly eradicating of extreme poverty, the major decrease in poverty (with the claim that the two lowest social classes have fallen from 55% to 25% of the population since 2003), macroeconomic stability, expansion of infrastructure, job creation (Brazil’s unemployment rate is low and has remained low), the expansion of education, the success of programs such as Bolsa Família and Brasil sem Miséria. It also proposed much of the same – vague commitments to improving productivity, reducing bureaucracy, boosting entrepreneurship, transitioning to a knowledge economy, environmental protection, expanding early childhood education, investing in the quality of education (overall, the government is committed to investing 10% of the GDP in education by 2024), expanding youth job opportunities, expanding access to medical specialists and a vague promise for political reform including a plebiscite and more ‘popular participation’. Maintaining and expanding popular social programs such as Bolsa Família were front and centre in Dilma’s campaign

On economic issues, Dilma reiterated the importance of macroeconomic stability and low inflation with lower interest rates and flexible exchange rates – in other words, the same policy, although with a different finance minister since Guido Mantega’s departure was confirmed. She defended state intervention in the economy, the use of public-private partnerships to build infrastructure and some protectionist measures. Dilma’s economic record has been the focus of most of the criticism in the last four years, and she has by and large lost the support of investors and the markets – because of what they judge to be inefficient policies against inflation, unfriendliness towards the private sector, excessive state intervention in the economy and too much meddling in the Central Bank’s business.

Aécio Neves was the candidate of the PSDB. Aécio is the grandson of Tancredo Neves, the veteran moderate opposition politician during the military regime who gained a somewhat mythical status as the result of his election to the presidency in 1985 and untimely, tragic death before he could take office. Aécio went on to serve four terms as a federal deputy from Minas Gerais, from 1987 to 2003, and was President of the Chamber of Deputies from February 2001 to December 2002. As President of the Chamber, Aécio pushed an ‘ethics package’ to increase transparency in Congress and ended congressional immunity for ordinary crimes.

In 2002, Aécio was elected governor of Minas Gerais, an office which his grandfather Tancredo had held from 1983 to 1984. The state had major fiscal and economic problems in 2002, with debts and deficits breaking the limits set by the fiscal responsibility law, although Aécio’s supporters may have a tendency to overstate the ‘catastrophic’ nature of the state’s situation (although Aécio’s predecessor as governor, Itamar Franco, had defaulted on the state debt upon taking office in 1999 and inadvertently triggered a devaluation of the real). Regardless, upon his election, Aécio introduced ‘management shock’ (choque de gestão) with the aim of reducing the state’s debt and deficit, modernize and reorganize the state apparatus and implement new management techniques – he reduced public spending, increased taxes, improved tax collection, cut the number of state ministries, capped public sector pay, left over 3000 patronage jobs unfilled, adopted new models of public-private partnerships and pushed for performance targets in the public sector. He also oversaw the construction of a Brasília-like government complex centralizing all government offices in Belo Horizonte. Taken as a whole, Aécio’s reforms in MG bear a lot of similarities to New Public Management (NPM) public sector reforms introduced in some countries since the 1980s. As a result of Aécio’s reforms, the state found R$ 1 billion in savings, the government cut its own expenditures, inefficient public servants were dismissed, bonuses were cut, the government introduced transparent public tenders for government procurement, the governor took a pay cut himself and the state paid off its debt in 2005 (after 14 years in debt). The long-term effectiveness of Aécio’s early reforms has been questioned by some analysts. His government also improved education, created a program to fight rural poverty and paved roads with financing from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Aécio was one of the most popular governors in Brazil – his campaign ads this year boasted a ‘92% approval’ when leaving office. In 2006, Aécio was reelected in a landslide, winning 77% of the vote against a PT candidate. Aécio and the local PSDB branches in MG closed their eyes (or covertly backed) to ‘Lula-Aécio’ campaigns (calling on voters to vote for Lula for president, over PSDB candidate Geraldo Alckmin, and Aécio for governor) – this strong vote-splitting badly hurt Alckmin, although Aécio cared little since he had clear presidential ambitions himself. Aécio tried out for the PSDB’s nomination in 2010, but waiting around too much and focusing on the election of his vice-governor Antônio Anastasia as his successor as governor meant that he ultimately was pushed aside by José Serra. He ran for Senate instead, and although he campaigned alongside Serra he didn’t exert himself too much for him (again, because Aécio was thinking of his presidential ambitions for 2014). As far as he was concerned, 2010 was another successful election – he was elected to the Senate with over 7.5 million votes in MG, and his replacement as governor, Antônio Anastasia, was elected to a full term as governor with a wide majority in the first round.

Aécio’s tenure in the Senate, however, has not been very memorable. In April 2011, he was pulled over by police and refused to take a breathalyzer test while his drivers’ license was seized for being expired. However, Aécio did obviously emerge as a leading opposition voice in the Senate. With Serra’s defeat in the runoff ballot, Aécio immediately became the favourite for the PSDB candidacy in 2014 – however, Serra retained presidential ambitions (despite two defeats) and tried to gather enough support in PSDB ranks to run. In November 2013, Aécio was nominated as the PSDB’s candidate after Serra failed to gather enough support. It’s interesting to note that Aécio was the first PSDB presidential candidate who wasn’t from São Paulo – all six PSDB candidates since 1989 have been from São Paulo.

Aécio’s running-mate was Senator Aloysio Nunes (PSDB-SP), a former federal deputy and justice minister under FHC. Interestingly, Aloysio Nunes was a Communist in his youth and participated in the armed struggle against the military regime (he partook in the raid of a train) before he went into exile in France. With the 1979 amnesty, he returned to Brazil and joined the PMDB before joining the PSDB in 1997. In 2010, he was elected to the Senate from São Paulo with the most votes of any candidate in the country (11.1 million votes).

Aécio’s coalition, Muda Brasil, was supported by the PSDB and the DEM, as well as a whole slew of smaller parties. These were the venal PTB; the new Solidarity (Solidariedade, SD), a party founded by ex-PDT federal deputy and trade union leader (Força Sindical) Paulo Pereira da Silva (Paulinho da Força); the National Mobilization Party (Partido da Mobilização Nacional, PMN), an originally left-wing party which has become an ideology-free venal beast; the new National Ecological Party (Partido Ecológico Nacional, PEN); the tiny National Labour Party (Partido Trabalhista Nacional, PTN); the Christian Labour Party (Partido Trabalhista Cristão, PTC), a small right-wing party which was originally Collor’s party in 1989 (as the PRN); and the tiny Labour Party of Brazil (Partido Trabalhista do Brasil, PTdoB), which shouldn’t be confused with the PTB (lol Brazilian party names!). In 2010, the PTC and PTN had supported Dilma. The PTB and PTdoB had backed Serra. It’s worth reiterating, at this point, that national-level coalitions have little implications on state-level coalitions: while the PSDB/DEM will rarely ally with the PT (or PCdoB) at any level, the PMDB may ally with the right against the PT or run independently (with smaller allies) against the PT, many small parties will support different parties in different states (eg: parties like SD which backed Aécio backed the PT in some states, the PSD which backed Dilma backed the PSDB/DEM in some states). Confused? That’s fine, everybody is!

Aécio’s platform was similar to traditional tucano (PSDB – the party’s symbol is a toucan) discourse – vaguely centre-right liberal reformism, with a fondness for ideas like ‘efficiency’, ‘simplicity’, ‘innovation’, ‘transparency’ and decentralization. It’s hardly a hard-right neoliberal platform which wants to slash the welfare states (as the PT likes to paint the PSDB as), although the PSDB does share some neoliberal ideas like privatization, NPM theories of public administration and free market economics. The PSDB, however, has also supported social benefits and state spending to alleviate poverty (and supports popular PT programs like Bolsa Família). Nevertheless, the PSDB’s support for privatization (a highly controversial idea in Brazil) and tendency to cut state spending in order to balance the books is often used against the party by its critics on the left and the PT. In recent years, the PSDB has adopted tougher rhetoric on law and order/security issues – this year, Governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB-SP) ran a strong campaign emphasizing law and order themes. Aécio’s 2014 manifesto attacked government policies, stagflation, Dilma’s economic interventionism, ‘out of control’ public spending, corruption and creative accounting.

Aécio’s key themes were decentralization – devolving more autonomy and resources to state and local governments to provide quality public services (contrasted with the alleged concentration of money and power with the federal government under the PT) while sharing a common vision, and shared delivery of services between levels of government; confidence – for citizens, investors, employers and workers (in effect, creating a stable climate of confidence in laws and regulations for business); transparency – fighting corruption and other shady government practices; simplicity – reducing bureaucracy and reforming public administration; innovation – improving global economic competitiveness by investing in R&D; efficiency – a ‘management shock’ to ensure more efficient management of public resources; popular participation – fluff. In concrete terms, the campaign’s main promises were a reform of public services (particularly education, healthcare, public safety and transit), a reform of public safety (eradicating impunity and strengthening security forces), a political reform, a tax reform (to simplify the tax system and reduce the custo Brasil) and a reform (upgrade) of infrastructure (a coordinated investment plan for infrastructure with private participation).

Aécio promised a more liberal economic policy than Dilma – reducing inflation to 4.5%, then reducing the Central Bank’s target to 3% with a 1.5% tolerance range, limiting increase in public spending to GDP growth, increasing investments from 16% to 24% of GDP, closer integration of the Brazilian economy with the global economy (by reducing export taxes, reducing costs, cutting bureaucratic hurdles, tariff reform, supporting free trade agreements and supporting Brazilian businesses internationally), a tax reform (simplifying the tax system and reducing the tax burden in the long run), removing sectoral protections for industry and more competition in the economy (fighting monopolies and cartels). Aécio called for more investments in infrastructure, but in partnership with the private sector through PPPs. To address the pension/social security deficit, Aécio proposed to reduce the size of the informal sector in the economy so there can be more contributors to social security; he also spoke in favour of combating welfare fraud and increasing the specialization of labour to reduce turnover. In the public sector, the PSDB candidate’s manifesto preached in favour of adopting NPM reforms similar to those he adopted as governor of MG. Finally, Aécio Neves promised ‘de-bureaucratization’ – reducing red tape, making it easier to open and run a business, reducing redundancies and time lost to bureaucratic hassles, greater dialogue with the public and civil society and more use of technology.

The tucano candidate promised to retain the Bolsa Família – in fact, as senator, he proposed to upgrade it to a state policy by integrating it in the law on social assistance (guaranteeing it as a permanent right for vulnerable citizens); his manifesto also spoke of the need to adopt a multidimensional view of poverty and proposed to classify low-income families registered in the state’s database (the Cadastro Único) according to six risk levels to attend better to the needs of vulnerable families. He reiterated his promise to retain other social policies, including affirmative action.

On the issue of education, Aécio’s manifesto promised full-day schooling, private school scholarships for poor students, a bonus for students to finish high school to fight high drop out rates, incentives for high school dropouts to return to school (including paying them the minimum wage, more choice for students in secondary schools and strategically-focused professional education/training in high-demand sectors with good employment prospects. In health care, he promised to increase spending to 10% of the overall budget to build 500 new clinics and improve the government’s Mais Médicos programs. His promises on environmental issues were largely generic stuff – transition to a low carbon economy, sustainable development in public policies, conservation of biodiversity, reducing deforestation, fighting illegal logging although with an added focus on the issue of water security.

Aécio’s plan for political reform promised an end to consecutive reelection of the President, governors and mayor (Dilma also supported it), five-year terms, a mixed voting system, reintroducing the ‘threshold’ laws limiting small parties’ access to congressional representation, funding and TV airtime. While Dilma proposed a plebiscite on political reform, Aécio said that reform should come from Congress, which could decide whether or not to hold a plebiscite.

Eduardo Campos announced his candidacy to the presidency for the PSB in October 2013. At the same time, after she failed to register her new political party, Marina Silva announced that she would join the PSB, having found an agreement with the party. In November 2013, Campos confirmed that he would be the PSB-led coalition’s presidential candidate, putting an end to speculation that Marina could be the party’s candidate. In April 2014, Marina Silva was confirmed as Eduardo Campos’ running-mate.

Although Eduardo Campos left office with sky-high approval ratings in Pernambuco and most saw him as a competent and ambitious politician, he failed to take off in the polls – he polled only 8% to 11% in May and June 2014, a distant third behind Dilma (in the driver’s seat with 38-40%) and Aécio (with mediocre numbers between 19% and 24%). However, Campos was only using his 2014 candidacy as a springboard for a much stronger run in 2018.

On August 13, the Cessna Citation 560 XLS+ carrying Eduardo Campos and six other people crashed due to poor weather conditions as it was attempting to land in Santos (SP). All 7 passengers on board died in the crash. The accident and Campos’ tragic death sent shockwaves through the country and shook up the election. The PSB-led coalition had ten days to choose a new candidate and, as was widely expected, it selected Marina Silva to replace Eduardo Campos. She chose five-term federal deputy and Campos loyalist Beto Albuquerque (PSB-RS) as her running-mate.

The PSB-led coalition included, besides the PSB, the Popular Socialist Party (Partido Popular Socialista, PPS); originally the ‘eurocommunist’ reformist dissident group of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) led by Roberto Freire which had been in the centre-right opposition bloc since 2003; the Social Liberal Party (Partido Social Liberal, PSL), a very small social liberal centre-right party; the Humanist Party of Solidarity (Partido Humanista da Solidariedade, PHS), a tiny Christian democratic party; the Free Homeland Party (Partido Pátria Livre, PPL), a party founded in 2011 from remnants of the old far-left armed guerrilla Revolutionary Movement 8th of October (MR8) and the Progressive Republican Party (Partido Republicano Progressista, PPR), a tiny irrelevance.

Marina Silva was born in 1958 in the remote Amazonian state of Acre, the daughter of impoverished rubber tappers. She grew up in poverty, lost her mother at 15, suffered from several health problems in her youth and began working on rubber plantations at the age of 10. She grew up in the tradition of legendary Acrean rubber tapper Chico Mendes, a union leader who was one of the founders of the CUT and PT in Acre. Chico Mendes and rubber tappers in Acre had a strong environmental conscience, aware of the threat posed to their livelihoods by deforestation. In the footsteps of her political mentor Chico Mendes, Marina joined the PT in 1986 and was an unsuccessful PT candidate for Congress alongside Mendes in 1986. She was elected as municipal councillor in Rio Branco, the state capital, in 1988 and moved up to state deputy in Acre in 1990. In 1994, Marina was elected to the Senate from Acre and was reelected to a second term in 2002. As noted above, Marina joined Lula’s cabinet in January 2003 as his Minister of the Environment, an office she held until May 2008, when she resigned to protest the government’s environmental policies. In 2009, she left the PT to join the Greens and ran as their presidential candidate in 2010. In 2011, she left the PV. Marina converted to evangelical Christianity (Assembly of God) in 1997. As a result of her evangelical Protestant beliefs, Marina has socially conservative views on hot-button cultural issues: in 2010, she opposed embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and the decriminalization of abortion.

Marina surged in the aftermath of her nomination as Campos’ replacement. She breezed past Aécio and was in a statistical tie for first with Dilma by the end of August and she took a solid lead over the incumbent in a runoff scenario. As Aécio’s bland and mediocre campaign floundered in August and early-to-mid September, Marina became Dilma’s main rival and she posed a very serious threat to the President’s reelection hopes. Aécio’s campaign looked like it was effectively throwing in the towel, focusing on shoring up the PSDB in state-level races while hoping that Aécio’s votes which would flow to Marina in the runoff would give the PSDB a strong position to negotiate a deal with her.

Marina’s platform had a heavy focus on political reform – she promised a ‘high-intensity democracy’, which seems to be a cool sophisticated way of saying a less corrupt, more ‘participative’ democracy. She too promised to abolish reelection, single five-year terms, aligned local and general electoral calendars (local elections are currently held 2 years after the general federal/state elections), electoral reform (quite vague on the preferred system), more direct democracy with more referendums/plebiscites and the chance for more popular initiatives, transparent campaign finance laws and a reform of TV airtime regulations. The coalition also proposed to ‘rationalize’ the presence of the public sector, reducing costs but increasing the quality of services, reduced expenditure with the use of PPPs, bringing in NPM-style reforms to the public sector (goals, indicators, performance evaluation, accountability and efficiency), channels for interaction between the public sector and citizens and sustainable/eco-friendly practices in public administration. Like Aécio, she called on a ‘new federalism’, by transferring more tax revenues to the states and municipalities and creating new spaces for dialogue and intergovernmental cooperation.

Marina’s platform on economic issues was fairly right-leaning – criticizing the high tax burden, advocating less government intervention, creating conditions for more private investment (and reducing government subsidies granted through the BNDES), a friendlier business climate (by ending discretionary government policies), calls for greater economic competitiveness on global markets, promises for tax reform (not raising taxes, cutting taxes on investments, more progressive taxation and simplifying tax laws) and calls for greater private provision of credit. However, it also promised to reduce inequality (to a Gini index value of 0.5 in 2018, from 0.53 today) by maintaining and expanding current social programs such as Bolsa Família, criticized Dilma for the drastic decrease in the pace of agrarian reform, promised to distribute land to 85,000 families waiting for land, promised to integrate those living from subsistence agriculture on minifúndios into the agricultural economy and called for broader agricultural insurance to protect against market risks. Marina, like Aécio, called for more investments in infrastructure and a major expansion of infrastructure through PPPs, concessions and direct private investment.

The platform had a green tint, with a major focus on energy policy, where Marina called for more renewable energies in the electricity mix (notably solar power), carbon pricing in the energy sector, better management of supply and demand to avoid rationing, less consumption of fossil fuels and liberalization of the energy market. On wider environmental issues, the coalition’s platform urged immediate action against deforestation, fulfilling international commitments, expanding the area of planted forests by 40%, forcing public agencies to meet GHG emissions targets, providing incentives for low-carbon agriculture and the creation of a ‘Brazilian Market for Emissions Reduction’. Environmental issues, however, were not a key focus of her campaign and many critics found her environmental policies to be uninspiring.

On the issue of education, Marina promised to prioritize comprehensive education in primary schools (for more on this Brazilian concept, see this link in Portuguese), provide universal early childhood education for children ages 4-5, expand access to post-secondary education, accelerate plans to devote 10% of GDP to education, improve teachers’ conditions and pay (one half in relation to the growth of federal budget expenditures for education and the second half tied to teacher performance) and increase R&D spending.

On social policy issues, Marina promised to maintain and expand the Bolsa Família to another 10 million families, adopt a multidimensional view of poverty, gradually increase healthcare spending to 10% of federal revenues, build 100 new hospitals and to increase the number of hospital beds including through contracts with private providers.

Urban policy was the fifth main ‘axis’ of her campaign. She promised to expand the government’s Minha Casa Minha Vida housing program by building 4 million houses by 2018, push states and municipalities to provide infrastructure to these new neighborhoods, implement policies guaranteeing universal access to sanitation (40 million lack access to treated water, 119 million live without a sewage network), improve waste collection, implement a program (with all levels of government) to build 1,000km of LRT and dedicated bus lanes by 2018 in cities with over 200k inhabitants, create a federal program to implement free transit for students (‘free pass’) and push for non-motorized transportation. On security issues, Marina proposed the implementation of a National Plan to Reduce Homicides and a Pact for Life (modeled on the successful anti-crime programs in Pernambuco), strengthen the federal police, increase spending on public safety and stronger coordination of law enforcement efforts.

The final axis of Marina Silva’s platform was human rights, detailing her vision for the state’s relationships to human rights groups, youth, women, LGBT communities, disabled people, traditional communities, minorities, indigenous peoples, quilombolas, blacks (Afro-Brazilians), new social movements and trade unions. In concrete terms, the manifesto talked about promoting regional integration programs geared towards the youth, adoption of the ‘free pass’ (see above), adopting mechanisms to tackle discrimination against women in the labour market (formalization of women’s work and enhanced oversight of the Ministry of Labour to guarantee equal pay for equal work), expanding the range of services offered to women (such as efforts to expand women entrepreneurship), sex-ed in schools, concerted actions to protect women from violence, the recognition of quilombos and indigenous land rights and less state intervention in the arbitration of labour disputes.

On LGBT issues, Marina’s manifesto became the heart of a firestorm early in her campaign. The initial version of the platform, released on August 29, included explicit support for same-sex marriage and for PL 122 (pending legislation to criminalize homophobia and ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity); the next day, a ‘revised’ version released by the campaign removed any mention of support for same-sex marriage (instead ‘guaranteeing the rights arising from civil unions’ – which already exist) and PL 122, and taming down the language on gay adoption rights (from ‘remove the barriers to the adoption of children by homosexual couples’ to ‘giving equal treatment to all adoptive couples’). The manifesto retained calls to tackle homophobia and to back congressional approval of a gender identity bill backed by openly gay federal deputy and LGBT rights activist Jean Wyllys (PSOL-RJ). Marina’s campaign claimed that the initial draft was a mistake, because it didn’t reflect the ‘mediation between the ideas of the various persons which contributed to its formulation’ (read: it didn’t reflect Marina’s beliefs) – it thus deflected accusations of flip-flopping by claiming that Marina didn’t change her mind because she never endorsed gay marriage. LGBT groups were livid at the campaign’s stance. Marina likely backtracked on LGBT rights because of the strong opposition of evangelical pastor/televangelist Silas Malafaia, who is a strong opponent of gay marriage and PL 122, as well as the hostility of the congressional ‘evangelical bench’ – evangelicals, obviously, being a key element of Marina’s personal electoral clientele. Dilma was the only major candidate who support PL 122.

Luciana Genro was the candidate of the radical left PSOL. Luciana Genro is the 43-year old daughter of Tarso Genro (PT-RS), a former mayor of Porto Alegre and governor of Rio Grande do Sul. Originally a member of the PT like her father, she was elected to the state legislature under the petista flag in 1994 and 1998 and then to the Chamber in 2002. Already a member of the PT’s radical/left-wing for quite some time, Luciana Genro quickly became increasingly unhappy with the moderate direction of the Lula government and she was expelled from the PT along with Heloísa Helena and other after rebelling against the party line on a pension reform vote. She was a founding member of the PSOL in 2005 and was reelected to the Chamber of Deputies from Rio Grande do Sul in 2006. In the Chamber, Luciana pushed for taxes on banks and the implementation of a wealth tax, created on paper by the 1988 Constitution but never created by legislators. She was defeated in 2010, largely because of the ridiculous intricacies of the electoral system.

Luciana ran on a very left-wing platform. On economic issues, the PSOL called for lower interest rates, an audit of the debt (against primary surpluses), capital flow controls, tax reform (wealth tax, closing tax loopholes and concessions for businesses), repeal of the fiscal responsibility law (replacing it with a social investment law forcing governments to invest in public services), reindustrialization, low-interest loans and revision of privatizations. On social services, Luciana promised increased public spending on healthcare and education, no privatization in healthcare, regulation of private insurance, patent law reform, free pharmacare, expansion of public education, a massive increase in the minimum wage, introduction of maximum salaries, 40-hour workweek, urban reform (fighting real estate speculation and forced evictions, expropriation of idle land and long-term vacant properties for public housing, reducing costs of rent, guaranteeing public transit as a right, increased spending on transit, expansion of public transit (including non-motorized alternatives) and increased pensions. She also called for the creation of a public broadcaster, a right to internet access, reducing monopolies in the media and the cancellation of TV/radio licenses granted to elected officials. On environmental issues, she supported the repeal of all decrees allowing the use of pesticides, suspending the release of GMOs, a zero deforestation goal, universal access to sanitation, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, renewable energies (including solar power), state control over generation and distribution of electricity and reducing energy waste. The platform also supported agrarian reform.

The PSOL took much more socially liberal/libertarian stances than any of the three major parties. Luciana’s platform supported same-sex marriage, criminalization of homophobia, PSOL deputy Jean Wyllys’ gender identity bill, anti-homophobia education (dropped by Dilma’s government due to evangelical opposition), legalization of abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (currently banned except in the cases of rape, maternal life or fetuses with anencephaly) covered by the SUS, pay equity, state secularism, decriminalization of marijuana, demilitarization of the police, tackling police brutality, abolishing all remaining forms of torture, a revision of penitentiary policy and full commitment to human rights (including, as a key aspect, upholding the right to strike and freedom of assembly).

On the issue of political reform, Luciana called for a constituent assembly, public campaign financing, the possibility of recall, open-list (but pre-ordered list) proportional representation to strengthen ideological parties and the introduction of direct democracy mechanisms (referendum, plebiscite, popular initiative, participatory budget-making).

Eduardo Jorge was the candidate of the Green Party (PV). Jorge was a four-term PT federal deputy between 1987 and 2003, who joined the PV in 2003. Sustainable development, clean energy, protection of the Amazon and Atlantic littoral forest, zero deforestation, greatly developing solar energy, congestion pricing in cities and energy efficiency were some of the Greens’ key priorities. Political reform also ranked high on their agenda – calling for a unicameral legislature with fewer seats, direct democracy, MMP, voluntary voting, a new plebiscite on parliamentarianism (Brazil voted in favour of a presidential republic in 1993), a reduction in the number of ministries to 14, less government agencies/commissions and splitting government revenues equally between all three levels of government. Eduardo Jorge supported the current macroeconomic framework (primary surplus, inflation targeting, floating exchange rate and fiscal responsibility) and further called for tax simplification (and no tax increases), lower interest rates, pension reform (with a single system for both public and private employees – with pension caps and recognizing the need to explore the possibility of more contributions and a higher retirement age) and more attention to healthcare and education. Despite this fairly liberal economic policy, it also supported maintaining current social programs and reducing working time (40hrs/week). Like Luciana (PSOL), Eduardo Jorge defended a very socially liberal agenda – human rights, indigenous rights, gay marriage/adoption, Afro-Brazilian rights, demilitarization of the police, animal rights/vegetarianism, decriminalization of marijuana, a less repressive criminal policy (especially on the drug war issues) and pacifism.

Pastor Everaldo, an evangelical (Assemblies of God) pastor from Rio de Janeiro, was the candidate of the small right-wing Christian Social Party (PSC). Everaldo ran on a right-wing platform promoting family values, free market economics, less bureaucracy and a stronger national defense. He attracted the most attention (and controversy) because of his very vocal socially conservative positions – he is loathed by feminists and LGBT activists because he is strongly pro-life, anti-gay marriage and anti-drug legalization. That being said, Everaldo was sentenced in first instance (in 2012) to pay damages to his ex-wife for moral and material damage and has also been accused by his ex-wife of physical assault and death threats (which he claimed was in self-defense).

Levy Fidelix was the candidate, as in 2010, of the tiny right-wing Brazilian Labour Renewal Party (Partido Renovador Trabalhista Brasileiro, PRTB), which he founded in 1992 (as the PTRB). Something of a perennial candidate, Levy Fidelix has run for some kind of office in every election since 1996 (including local elections) and ran for President in 2010, where he won 0.06%. In all his candidacies, this one included, he is often known for his proposals for a monorail/bullet train between Campinas (SP) and Rio and monorails in major cities. In 2014, he also called for financial/tax reform, the creation of R$510 family wage to replace social programs and the construction of a dozen planned cities in the Centre-West. However, this year, Levy Fidelix grabbed attention and sparked a major controversy for his homophobic statements during a televised debate. Asked by Luciana Genro (PSOL) why ‘family value’ politicians refused to defend same-sex couple families, Levy Fidelix went off on an homophobic rant. He argued that reproduction doesn’t happen through the excretory system (a reference to anal sex), associated homosexuality and pedophilia, claimed that homosexuality was contagious, considered homosexuals to be mentally ill, claimed that homosexuals needed psychological care and said that homosexuals were better kept away from ‘us’. The three main candidates later condemned his statements (but didn’t challenge him on them during the debate); the PSOL, PV and the government’s Secretariat for Human Rights filed charges against.

José Maria Eymael ran for President for the fourth time (previously in 1998, 2006 and 2010), under the banner of his small Christian Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata Cristão, PSDC), a right-wing party claiming inspiration from European Christian democracy. Eymael’s best result was 0.25% in 1998, and won only 0.06% (his lowest vote) in 2010. Eymael’s main claim to fame remains his popular and catchy 1985 campaign jingle Ey Ey Eymael, um democrata cristão (the popularity of which allowed him to be elected to the constituent assembly in 1986). His platform is usually generic Christian democratic in orientation, although more socially conservative than European Christian democracy.

Finally, there were three small far-left candidates. There was José ‘Zé’ Maria de Almeida‘s fourth candidacy for the Trotskyst United Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado, PSTU), a party born in the 1990s from the Trot faction of the PT. Zé Maria supported nationalization of the financial sector, privatized companies and natural resources; higher taxes on the rich; expropriation and nationalization of the banks; decriminalization of drugs and expropriation of latifúndios. Mauro Iasi, a feminist university professor, ran for the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) – which is currently a very small, hard-left Marxist-Leninist party. He supported mass nationalizations (energy, mines, communications, natural resources, transport etc.), higher taxes on the rich, nationalization of public transit to make it free, legalization of abortion, ‘radical direct democracy’, ‘popular education’, agrarian reform and defaulting on the public debt. Rui Costa Pimenta ran for a fourth time as the candidate of the Workers’ Cause Party (Partido da Causa Operária, PCO), another Trot party. He supported similar far-left policies including huge minimum wage increases, nationalizations, high taxes on the rich, land expropriations, legalization of abortion plus the lovely idea of replacing the police/military by ‘popular militias’ (yeah, that would work out well!).

National Results – October 6, 2014

Marina Silva’s wave peaked at the end of August, when he was tied with Dilma in a first round poll, 34% to 34%, with Aécio way back at 15%. Her first round support tapered off somewhat in early and mid-September, allowing Dilma to retake a narrow first round lead, but as Aécio failed to bridge the gap with Marina, she remained the favourite to face Dilma in the runoff. She continued to hold a narrow lead over Dilma until September 20 or so, when she lost the lead in the runoff.

Marina faced unrelenting and harsh attacks from both of her opponents, but particularly Dilma, who attacked her on policy issues but also by using fear tactics claiming (falsely) that Marina would destroy social programs and that she would hand power to bankers and international financial organizations (the unpopular IMF) by guaranteeing the Central Bank’s autonomy. Although Marina’s economic stances were close to those of the PSDB, her stances on other issues were close to that of the PT. She could have siphoned off left-wing voters by playing on her more left-wing environmental and indigenous rights stances, but she chose to focus exclusively on anti-PT voters and therefore mostly emphasized her more right-wing economic views. This made Dilma’s somewhat dishonest attacks alleging that Marina was a conservative more effective.

Dilma also highlighted Marina’s weak partisan base of support, and compared her to former Presidents Jânio Quadros (1961) and Fernando Collor (1990-1992). Quadros was a bizarre, eccentric and wacky populist politician who enjoyed a whirlwind rise to power in the 1950s (from local councillor to President within 10 years); he was elected to the presidency on a moralistic, populist anti-corruption platform in 1960 with the right’s (opportunistic) support but quickly turned out to be quite different to what they had hoped for by embracing a non-aligned foreign policy and meeting Che Guevara. After an extremely bizarre 207 days in office, Jânio got in a drunken stupor and resigned suddenly (lo and behold, Jânio made a political comeback in 1985 by defeating FHC for mayor of São Paulo by claiming FHC was a pot-smoking atheist who would put weed in school lunches). Collor, like Jânio, lacked a substantial personal base of support (Collor’s party, the PRN, won only 40 seats in Congress in 1990) and his government relied on the support of right-wing parties in Congress (PFL, PDS, PTB, PL) who were not totally reliable (especially by the end). By comparing Marina to Jânio and Collor, Dilma warned voters that Marina would lack a strong base of support in Congress. Marina herself, after riding a wave of sympathy for Campos and popular connection to her life story, and after putting up a strong performances in TV interviews and debates, began to stumble and made amateur mistakes. Aécio also attacked her, notably over her inexperience and tried to wean right-wing voters away from her by reminding them that Marina had been in the PT for 25 years. Although Aécio and Marina had similar platforms, Aécio began to sell himself as a more experienced and tested leader who also had a stronger partisan base of support.

Marina having lost the momentum, her support in the polls collapsed in the final week of the campaign. In Ibope on September 20-22, she trailed Dilma by 9 in the first round (38-29, 19% Aécio); in Datafolha on September 25-26, she trailed Dilma by 13 (40-27, 18% Aécio); in Datafolha on September 29-30, she trailed by 15 in the first round and the gap with Aécio was cut down to only 5% (40-25-20), a poll on October 1-2 from the same pollster showed the gap with Aécio down to 3% (24-21). The last two polls from Ibope and Datafolha, released on October 3-4, showed that Aécio had taken back second place, and led Marina by 3% and 2% respectively in the first round. Dilma polled 40%, while Aécio polled 24%. In runoff polls, Marina lost her lead over Dilma beginning on September 25-26, and by the time of the first round, she was trailing Dilma by a consequential margin in an hypothetical runoff. As Brazilians headed to the polls on October 6, Marina’s impressive momentum had totally collapsed and it looked like the runoff would be an anticlimactic Dilma/Aécio runoff (with Dilma heavily favoured).


Turnout in the first round was 80.61%.

Dilma Rousseff (PT) 41.59%
Aécio Neves (PSDB) 33.55%
Marina Silva (PSB) 21.32%
Luciana Genro (PSOL) 1.55%
Pastor Everaldo (PSC) 0.75%
Eduardo Jorge (PV) 0.61%
Levy Fidelix (PRTB) 0.43%
José Maria de Almeida (PSTU) 0.09%
José Maria Eymael (PSDC) 0.06%
Mauro Iasi (PCB) 0.05%
Rui Costa Pimenta (PCO) 0.01%

Blank votes 5.8%
Invalid votes 3.84%

Brazil 2014 - r1

Chamber of Deputies

Compared to dissolution

PT 70 seats (-17)
PMDB 66 seats (-5)
PSDB 54 seats (+9)
PSD 37 seats (-8)
PP 36 seats (-4)
PR 34 seats (+3)
PSB 34 seats (+9)
PTB 25 seats (-7)
DEM 22 seats (-6)
PRB 21 seats (+11)
PDT 19 seats (+1)
SD 15 seats (-6)
PSC 12 seats (nc)
PROS 11 seats (-9)
PCdoB 10 seats (-5)
PPS 10 seats (+4)
PV 8 seats (nc)
PHS 5 seats (+5)
PSOL 5 seats (+2)
PTN 4 seats (+4)
PMN 3 seats (nc)
PRP 3 seats (+1)
PEN 2 seats (+1)
PSDC 2 seats (+2)
PTC 2 seats (+2)
PRTB 1 seat (+1)
PSL 1 seat (+1)
PTdoB 1 seat (-2)
Source: G1 Eleições 2014


Compared to dissolution

PMDB 18 seats (-1) – 5 elected
PT 12 seats (-1) – 2 elected
PSDB 10 seats (-2) – 4 elected
PSB 6 seats (+3) – 3 elected
PDT 6 seats (+2) – 4 elected
PP 5 seats (nc) – 1 elected
DEM 5 seats (+1) – 3 elected
PSD 4 seats (+2) – 2 elected
PR 4 seats (nc) – 1 elected
PTB 3 seats (-3) – 2 elected
PCdoB 1 seat (-1) – 0 elected
PSOL 1 seat (nc) – 0 elected
PPS 1 seat (nc) – 0 elected
PRB 1 seat (nc) – 0 elected
PV 1 seat (nc) – 0 elected
PSC 1 seat (nc)- 0 elected
PROS 1 seat (nc) – 0 elected
SD 1 seat (nc) – 0 elected
Source: UOL Eleições

Despite the impression that the first round would be quite anticlimactic after the crazy ups-and-downs of the campaign – particularly Marina’s surge and subsequent collapse, and Aécio’s campaign never getting off the ground – the first round of the presidential election reserved its share of surprises. As expected, Dilma and Aécio qualified for the runoff, while Marina Silva ended a mediocre third. However, the results of the two main candidates were unexpected: Dilma, at 41.6%, was significantly weaker than expected (excluding the undecideds, polling suggested that Dilma would win about 45-47%); Aécio, with 33.6%, was extremely strong compared to his polling numbers in the last polls let alone his polling numbers a mere week or two before the election.

Aécio’s performance was quite remarkable. He overperformed his final polling numbers (from October 4) by nearly 10%, and gained about 15% compared to where he stood a week before the election (at 20% and in third). 10 to 15 days before the first round, Aécio was still considered dead in the water.

Marina Silva, with 21.3%, placed a mediocre and disappointing third – although it was about where the last polls, from October 3-4, had pegged her. Ultimately, Marina was the victim of both her own poor campaign and virulent attacks from both her opponents, but particularly Dilma. Dilma’s brazenly negative campaign against Marina succeeded in substantially increasing Marina’s ‘rejection numbers’ (in Brazilian polls, the number of people who ‘reject’ – ie would never vote for – a candidate) from about 10% to 20%, while the government’s positive ratings improved from about 34% to 39%. However, from the results of the first round, it appears that Marina’s lost voters flowed en masse to Aécio rather than Dilma – something which, naturally, makes sense given that Marina’s surge was built by anti-PT/anti-Dilma voters who were hesitating between which candidate to support. Marina, when she looked to be the strongest (and only) alternative to Dilma/the PT, right-wing/anti-Dilma voters flocked to her; however, she failed to lock them down by convincing them why she’d make a better President than Aécio, so when she started losing her momentum, they defected to Aécio.

Marina was also hurt by differences in candidates’ TV airtime in the first round: because Dilma’s coalition had the support of large parties such as the PT, PMDB, PSD, PP and PR, she had 11:24 minutes of free airtime in the first round campaign, compared to 4:35 minutes for Aécio and only 2:03 minutes for Marina. Dilma used her airtime advantage to attack Marina.

That the presidential races in the last 20 years have all opposed a candidate from the PT representing ‘the left’ and one from the PSDB representing ‘the right’ (whether they like it or not) gives a superficial appearance of stability in Brazilian political choices at the top level. In reality, as this election showed, Brazilian voters at the presidential level are just as elastic and fickle as they are at the congressional, state and local levels.

Dilma, with 41.6%, had a fairly mediocre result in the first round. Dilma, as the incumbent with a mixed record, was naturally the most polarizing candidate in this race – polls regularly showed her to have a strong, resilient base of support in the 40% range, but her ‘rejection’ numbers were nearly as strong in the 35-40% range, meaning that over 40% of voters would never vote for her while another 40% were certain to vote for her. Her underperformance in the first round hit her campaign badly, as Aécio came out of the first round with a huge boost in momentum because of his strong numbers.

Indeed, as first round numbers flowed in, it became clear that Dilma would face a much closer and tougher runoff battle than was widely expected, as a result of Aécio’s surprisingly strong showing. With such high rejection numbers and the strength of the anti-PT strategic voters bloc, she was seriously vulnerable to Aécio. In 2010, Marina Silva’s voters had broken by a significant, although not huge, margin for José Serra (the PSDB candidate); in 2014, it was expected that they would break heavily for Aécio, and unlike in 2010, it was widely assumed after the first round that Marina would officially endorse Aécio.

Luciana Genro, the PSOL candidate, did fairly well with 1.6% of the vote – up from 0.87% in 2010. The main winner among the smaller candidates, however, was Levy Fidelix – he won 0.43% and 446,878 votes, up significantly from 0.06% and 57,960 votes in 2010. This strong result, of course, followed the national and international publicity he got for his crazy homophobic rant on the debate (‘reproduction can’t happen through the anus’).

Marina endorsed Aécio Neves on October 12. Eduardo Jorge (PV), Pastor Everaldo (PSC) and Levy Fidelix (PRTB) also endorsed Aécio. State-level candidates including gubernatorial favourites Rodrigo Rollemberg (PSB-DF) and José Ivo Sartori (PMDB-RS) or senator-elect Romário (PSB-RJ) also endorsed Aécio during the runoff campaign. Aécio successfully managed, for once, to unite the PSDB behind his candidacy after the first round success – former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, somewhat placed aside by the PSDB in the last few cycles, regained a more prominent position in Aécio’s campaign; José Serra, elected to the Senate from São Paulo, actively supported Aécio; Governor Geraldo Alckmin, one of the main winners of the first round with his landslide reelection in São Paulo, also actively supported Aécio (likely because Aécio promised to abolish reelection). Brazilian football star Neymar also endorsed Aécio. In a much stranger twist, Aécio received unlikely ‘endorsements’ from American actress Lindsay Lohan and English supermodel Naomi Campbell – although Lindsay Lohan’s Twitter and Facebook posts were quickly taken down (it seems that the ‘endorsements’ were part of a paid advertising deal with a Brazilian company which does that sort of thing).

On the left, Luciana (PSOL) did not endorse anybody but called to vote against Aécio. Jean Wyllys (PSOL-RJ) endorsed Dilma and recorded an ad for her.

Datafolha and Ibope’s first polls after the first round, conducted on October 7-8 and 8-9 respectively, gave Aécio a narrow and inconclusive 2-point lead over Dilma; or a 51-49 lead in the valid votes. Their second wave of polls, conducted on October 12-14 (after Marina’s endorsement), showed him retaining a 2-point lead.

Dilma fired back with unrelenting attacks against Aécio, on a number of themes. Some attacks highlighted Aécio’s reputation as a patrician playboy – with allegations that he has used cocaine in the past (obviously, with Lindsay Lohan ‘endorsing’ him, that brought out a lot of easy jokes) and that he beat his model girlfriend Leticia Weber before they got married (a likely false rumour). Dilma ran an ad in which she claimed Aécio had “difficulties respecting women” – because he called Luciana and Dilma leviana, a word (not used often, it seems) which means imprudent or acting irresponsibly or hypocritically, and claimed that he had been disrespectful towards Dilma in a second round debate.

Other attacks concerned corruption and nepotism allegations from his time as governor of Minas Gerais – Dilma’s campaign accused him of building two airports in small towns where his relatives owned land and of employing dozens of his cousins and other relatives in state agencies and government jobs. Aécio failed to respond adequately to the airport and nepotism issues, arrogantly responding that the airports issue was a non-issue. There was also the case of the helicopter from Aécio’s company, Agropecuaria Limeira, filled with 450kg of cocaine which was seized by the Federal Police late last year (cue more jokes about LiLo). The helicopter belonged to state deputy Gustavo Perrella (SD-MG), the son of Senator Zezé Perrella (PDT-MG); both allies of Aécio Neves. Finally, other attacks concerned Aécio’s policy and political record as governor – accusations that Aécio’s government in MG cut healthcare and teacher’s pay (a rather egregious twisting of the truth), claims that Aécio voted against a minimum wage raise (he did, but only because he wanted a higher one than what was proposed) and the PT’s typical scare tactics that Aécio/the PSDB would abolish social programs. She also warned that Aécio’s ‘management shock’ would lead to job loses and cuts. Overall, Dilma’s rhetorically left-wing campaign was successful in driving home the idea that Aécio was the candidate of the elitist, pro-rich, pro-bankers conservative right. At times, Aécio did nothing to challenge this image – by attacking Dilma and even Lula’s record, he seemed to deny the very real progress made by the country and particularly by the poorest Brazilians in the past 12 years. His talk of ‘liberating’ the country from PT rule was very effective in playing to the base, which loathes the PT, but drove pro-PT and some swing voters away. Aécio’s close association with Armínio Fraga, the conservative President of the Central Bank under FHC who was set to become Aécio’s finance minister, also reinforced the image of Aécio as the candidate of an elitist conservative right.

Dilma’s negative campaign further alienated her existing critics, who accused her of dirty campaigning (a la Collor 1989) and of turning increasingly to the left and polarizing the country further in the process.

Datafolha polls on October 20 and 21 showed that Dilma had successfully reversed the situation, taking a 3 and 4-point lead respectively over Aécio (or a 52-48 lead in valid votes). Ibope, in the field from October 2o to 22, showed a 54-46 advantage for the President in valid votes (49-41); Datafolha on October 22-23 showed a 53-47 lead for Dilma.

On the other hand, the second round was also dominated with coverage of a developing political scandal at Petrobras, the oil giant. The anti-government Veja newsmagazine has relayed news and juicy details of the scandal, beginning with a March 2014 Federal Police operation (operação Lava Jato) which revealed a complex money laundering and tax evasion scheme. Shell companies belonging to Alberto Youssef  received millions in unexplained deposits from some of the biggest companies in the country (who have big contracts with the federal government), money which was later transferred to parties and politicians – the same politicians who had appointed the bureaucrats who hired the contractors paying the bribes. Youssef’s clients included three of the most important parties – the PT, the PMDB and the PP. Paulo Roberto Costa, Petrobras’ former director of procurement (2004-2002), was also at the heart of this scheme and was arrested in March 2014. In September 2014, he revealed to the Federal Police the names of politicians who had received bribes from the contracts: his names included the President of the Chamber of Deputies Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN), President of the Senate Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL), Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobão (PMDB-MA), PP president Ciro Nogueira (PP-PI) and federal deputy Cândido Vaccarezza (PT-SP). He also claimed that the PT received 3% of the value of the contracts from the services, gas and energy and services directorates in Petrobras, as well as 2% from procurement contracts. The PP also received 1% of the value of contracts from the procurement directorate. In the last days before the second round, Veja hit the newsstands with an attention-grabbing headline claiming that Dilma and Lula knew everything (according to Youssef spilling the beans to the cops) and that Dilma used some of the illegal cash to finance her 2010 campaign. Dilma’s TV ads claimed that it was merely part of Veja‘s time-honoured tactics of dropping a ‘huge’ scandal on the PT when they were ahead in the final days (the magazine, in the past, had accused the PT of having received money from the FARC, among other things).

The last few juicy details from Youssef in the Petrobras scandal did tighten up the numbers in the last polls somewhat: Ibope showed Dilma leading 53-47 in the valid votes in their last poll (October 24-25), while Datafolha had her ahead 52-48 in a poll conducted on those same dates. Dilma was the favourite heading into the runoff, but the election promised to be tighter than any presidential runoff in the past.

The first round was also on a regional basis, as is the norm in Brazilian presidential elections since 2010. Dilma triumphed in the Nordeste, winning 59.4% in the region against 21.3% for Marina and only 17% for Aécio. The one exception to this triumph was Pernambuco, Eduardo Campos’ home state, where Marina narrowly defeated Dilma – 48.1% to 44.2%, leaving Aécio with only 5.9%. In the 2010 first round, Dilma had won 61.7% of the vote in Pernambuco. In the Northeastern states of Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Alagoas and Sergipe, Dilma actually improved on her first round numbers from 2010. In the states of Bahia (61.4% for Dilma) and Maranhão (69.6%), Dilma’s 2014 results on October 6 were only 1% or so below what she had won in 2010.

On the other hand, Aécio did very well in the traditionally right-leaning states of the South and Southeast – in those regions he won 48% and 36.5%, against 35.5% and 34.5% for Dilma respectively. Aécio recorded very strong results in São Paulo, where he won 44.2% in the first round against 25.8% for Dilma, who suffered an 11.5% loss from 2010 in SP. In Paraná and Santa Catarina, Dilma also suffered substantial loses from 2010 while Aécio improved significantly on José Serra’s 2010 first round numbers: +5.9% in Paraná and +7.1% in Santa Catarina, which was his best state in the first round (with 52.9%). Dilma narrowly won the key swing state/bellwether of Minas Gerais in the first round, 43.5% to 39.8% for Aécio, although Aécio’s home state advantage allowed him to improve on Serra’s 2010 performance by no less than 9% in MG. In Rio de Janeiro, a left-leaning state, Dilma won 35.6% against 31.1% for Marina and 26.9% for Aécio; compared to 2010, Dilma’s vote fell by 8.1% in RJ and the PSDB’s support increased by 4.4%.

In the Centre-West, Aécio won 40.9% against 33% for Dilma. She suffered major loses in Goiás (-10.1%) and the DF (-8.7%), and more limited loses in the right-leaning states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. In 2010, Marina had won the DF by over ten points (42% to 31.7%) against Dilma; this year, Aécio narrowly defeated Marina in the DF, 36.1% to 35.8%, with only 23% for Dilma. In the North, Dilma won 44.6% against 31.1% for Aécio. She actually improved on her 2010 results in Amapá, Pará, Roraima, Rondônia and Acre; but in Amazonas, where she won 65% in the first round in 2010, her support fell to 54.9%. Marina won her home state of Acre (which she had lost in 2010), with 42% against 29.1% for Aécio and 28% for Dilma; she mostly won through right-wing votes, given that the PSDB vote fell by 22.9% in Acre from 2010.

Marina’s vote, with the exception of Pernambuco and Acre, was somewhat evenly distributed across the regions and the states – she won 24.7% in the Southeast (with over 25% in SP, RJ and Espírito Santo), 23.2% in the Centre-West, 21.4% in the North, 21.3% in the Nordeste but only 12.8% in the South. Marina placed distant seconds ahead of Aécio in the Northeastern states of Bahia, Maranhão, Piauí and Alagoas – although in these cases, her results came at the expense of Aécio, given that Dilma improved on her 2010 showings in much of the region. Marina also performed well in the cities – 31.1% (and first place) in Rio, 23.9% in São Paulo, 25.5% in Salvador, 22.9% in Fortaleza, 63.3% in Recife and 29.2% in Manaus. In 2010, Marina’s urban support had been predominantly middle-class and well-educated, but in 2014, Marina did quite well in poorer areas. In Rio, for example, Marina was strongest in the poorer districts in the north of the city, while Aécio’s support was concentrated in the upscale seaside southern neighborhoods (upper-class areas such as Gávea, Leblon, Ipanema, Barra da Tijuca and Copacabana). Outside of Rio, Marina also did better in poorer working-class suburban municipalities such as Duque de Caxias (31.1%), Nova Iguaçu (32.9%), São João de Meriti (34.8%) and Nilópolis (35.7%) than in middle-class Niterói (29.1%). In suburban São Paulo, Marina also did better in the industrial ABC belt municipalities (traditional PT strongholds, very much eroded this year) – 27.5% in Diadema, 25.2% in São Bernardo do Campo, 34.2% in Guarulhos than she did in São Paulo itself (23.9%). In Brasília, Marina did better in poorer areas than in the more wealthy neighborhoods, where Aécio was strongest. Many of these voters were likely evangelical Christians, given that the poorer peripheries of Rio and São Paulo concentrate large numbers of evangelicals. Other regions where Marina did well – Espírito Santo, the Vale do Paraíba and the RJ littoral region – also have large evangelical populations.

Therefore, the real challenge for Aécio in the runoff was to conquer the vast majority of Marina’s first round vote – including parts of it which could be thought of as more favourable to the PT, because of their demographics.

The very pronounced regional polarization in this election – similar to 2006 and 2010, but even more polarized on regional lines – is due to a number of factors. Firstly, as Brazil’s democracy has matured, vote choice in presidential elections has become increasingly tied to demographic indicators such as income, education, human development, race (which is correlated with income and education) and religion (although this is more complicated). The Nordeste is the country’s poorest region – according to the Atlas do Desenvolvimento Humano do Brasil 2013, all states in the region had a Human Development Index (HDI) value below the national average (0.727), and the two poorest states in Brazil – Maranhão (0.639) and Alagoas (0.631) – are located in the region. The Nordeste’s poverty is the legacy of a history of social and racial inequality, a poorly diversified agriculture, weak industries, large latifúndios and a very unequal concentration of wealth; as well as regular droughts in the semi-arid inland regions (notably the sertão). Despite modernization and very real (and not unsuccessful) attempts at economic diversification, the Nordeste has remained the poorest region with the biggest wealth inequalities, low HDI values and the highest illiteracy rate (17% compared to 5% in the South/Southeast).

The South – Brazil’s whitest region (settled by European – Portuguese, German or Italian – settlers) – and the Southeast – home to the economic and political powerhouses of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais – are the two wealthiest regions in Brazil. The Centre-West, historically a poor and undeveloped inland region, has seen rapid development and rising prosperity in the recent decades, fueled notably by the agribusiness boom in Mato Grosso/Mato Grosso do Sul. The North, poor, sparsely populated and in parts still very remote, is similar to the Nordeste in that it is poor and largely non-white (brown); although the expansion of ‘pioneer front’ capitalist agriculture in Pará, Acre and Rondônia has changed matters somewhat.

In the past, until fairly recently, the Nordeste was politically dominated by an oligarchic paternalist elite, often of a very conservative orientation hostile to any kind of social reform which could endanger their hegemonic power. The old PFL (now the DEM) was, until 2002-2006, the dominant political force in the Nordeste, as a result of the party’s large network of conservative oligarchs who had previously backed the military regime but embraced democracy when the time came. The 2006 election saw a significant realignment of voting patterns in Brazil, with the PT/Lula gaining full dominance of the Nordeste while losing support in the wealthier South and Southeast. At the state level, powerful conservative oligarchs were defeated in Bahia and Pernambuco. The PT/left has retained dominance of presidential politics in the Nordeste following the 2010 and 2014 elections. As Brazilian democracy matured and the traditional power structures lost their influence, voting patterns have finally broken from the old traditions of coronelismo in the Nordeste and other regions.

First round results in municipalities with over 30% of the population receiving the Bolsa Família (source: Veja)

Another highly relevant contribution to voting patterns in recent presidential elections (since 2006) has been federal social programs. As the poorest region, the Nordeste has benefited the most from the federal government’s various social programs launched (mostly) under Lula or Dilma’s presidencies. The most famous and widespread of these programs is the Bolsa Família, which benefits 14 million families in Brazil – many of them in the Nordeste. Critics of these kind of cash transfer programs to poor populations consider these programs to be primarily clientelistic handouts, a very facile claim which demonstrates a piss-poor understanding of clientelistic politics and ignores the nature of the Bolsa Família. Regardless of what it is, the Bolsa Família has been a huge factor in the recent strength of the PT/left in the Nordeste. Veja‘s interactive map of the result (both rounds) allows you to filter the results according to certain variables, including the percentage of Bolsa Família beneficiaries (or, related to that, the municipality’s HDI or GDP per capita); the Folha de São Paulo also did similar work for the first round and runoff. The results are very revealing, as you can see from the map on the right. In municipalities where over 30% of residents receive the Bolsa Família, Dilma placed first in almost every single one of them – in the rural and inland Nordeste, she won over 70% in many of these municipalities. This graph, stolen from the Folha de São Paulo, shows the correlation between the Dilma vote in the first round and the percentage of the population receiving the Bolsa Família. There is a very clear correlation.

On the Veja map, you can also see the rather clear correlation between low HDI and a high Dilma vote, or a high HDI and a high Aécio vote.

In the race for Congress, the parties in Dilma’s coalitions retained – collectively – their large majorities in both houses of Congress. The PT-PMDB-PSD-PP-PR-PDT-PRB-PROS-PCdoB coalition (all parties which formally backed Dilma) won 304 seats out of 513 in the Chamber of Deputies. In addition to those parties, small venal parties such as the PTB can possibly be added to the government’s base in Congress given that they (a) include a lot of congressmen who are pro-government (like PTB senator Collor) and (b) they mostly end up backing whoever governs anyway. In the Senate, the government can count on about 52 seats (give or take a few) out of 81. The bulk of the congressional opposition in the next four years will be made up of the PSDB, PSB, DEM, PPS and PSOL.

The PT and PMDB suffered loses, however, in both houses of Congress; although the PT managed to remain the largest party in the Chamber, with a thin 4-seat edge over its big ally, the PMDB. The PSDB and PSB were the main winners in the Chamber, although the PRB also brought in a whole slew of deputies (like due to the success of PRB candidate Celso Russomano, who topped the poll in SP). The DEM, once again, were the main losers in the Chamber, even if you compare numbers to dissolution (as I did) to account for the creation of the PSD. Talking of the PSD, Kassab’s party was not considered as a big winner, given that the PSD came out with a smaller bench in the Chamber than it held prior to dissolution. The PSB, buoyed by its new-found independence from the PT and Marina’s candidacy, was another major winner, with 34 seats – up 9 from dissolution.

In the Senate, the PMDB’s plurality helps incumbent President Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL) hold his chair for another two-year term. In the Chamber of Deputies, however, with the PT still the largest party, President Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN) may struggle to retain the presidency of the house, especially considering how embattled he finds himself with the Petrobras accusations and his defeat in the gubernatorial race in Rio Grande do Norte.

This post will continue with a more in-depth look at state-level results. It is relevant to look at the most popular candidates for the Chamber in the country. As the largest state, São Paulo often elects the federal deputy who wins the most votes of all candidates for the Chamber in Brazil. This year, São Paulo – and Brazil’s – most popular candidate was Celso Russomano (PRB), who received 1.524 million votes (or 7.3% of the votes cast in the state), becoming the second-most popular candidate in Brazilian history after Eneás (2002). Russomano served as federal deputy between 1994 and 2012 before he ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor of São Paulo in 2012 but lost in the first round (after having been the early favourite). With his victory this year, he is likely a favourite for São Paulo’s 2016 mayoral election. In second place was Tiririca (PR), the professional clown and singer-songwriter elected federal deputy in 2010 with the most votes in the country; this year he won 1.016 million votes, less than 1.348 million votes he won in 2010 but still a hefty showing. In third place in the state was noted racist and homophobic neo-Pentecostal pastor/incumbent federal deputy Marco Feliciano (PSC), reelected with over 398,000 votes. Bruno Covas (PSDB), the grandson of former governor Mário Covas (PSDB), was elected to the Chamber of Deputies with the fourth-most votes in the state. In São Paulo, the landslide reelection of governor Geraldo Alckmin by the first round carried no less than 14 PSDB congressional candidates to the Chamber, compared to 13 in 2010. Paulinho da Força, the trade union leader and SD, was elected in tenth place with some 227,000 votes. The PT was one of the main losers in the state – the party elected 10 deputies, down from 15 in 2010. Its most popular candidate, Andrés Sanchez, the former president of the popular Corinthians football club, only placed 20th.  Cândido Vaccarezza, one of the leaders of the PT in the Chamber, was defeated, placing 98th (0.2%). Among those defeated in the state were Netinho de Paula (PCdoB), a former black singer and TV star who had unsuccessfully run for Senate in 2010. Elected to the city council of São Paulo in 2012, he has since faced a corruption allegation which saw his assets frozen by court order. In 2010, his senatorial campaign had been hurt by the revelation of an old case of domestic assault. He placed 65th with 0.4%. One prominent incumbent who went down to defeat was Roberto Freire (PPS), the longtime president of the PPS, who came in 84th place. In the fun world of Brazilian politics, a candidate registered as ‘Cosme Barack Obama’ (PMDB) came 601st.

In Rio de Janeiro, the most popular candidate – the third most popular candidate in Brazil – was seven-term incumbent Jair Bolsonaro (PP), a military reservist. Jair Bolsonaro is one of Brazil’s most controversial politicians – he is known for defending the use of torture, his open praise for the military dictatorship, crass sexist/rape apologist commentary (saying that he wouldn’t rape a deputy because she didn’t ‘deserve’ it), homophobic views (calling on fathers to spank their children to ‘cure’ them of homosexuality or ‘prevent’ them from being gay) and racism (against indigenous people, which he basically considers savages, and blacks, referring to interracial relationships as ‘promiscuity’). He was reelected with a much stronger vote than in 2010 – 464,572 votes (6.1%) compared to 120,646 (1.5%) in 2010. I fear that his various racist and homophobic outbursts in 2011 may have further boosted his profile and his popularity in certain social conservative and far-right circles. His son, Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSC-SP), just as repulsive as his father, was elected to the Chamber from SP, coming in 64th place. In second place in RJ was state deputy Clarissa Garotinho (PR), the daughter of former governor and federal deputy Anthony Garotinho – the clownish evangelical populist with strong appeals in low-income evangelical areas, was elected federal deputy with about 335,000 votes (4.4%). In 2010, her father had won 694.8 thousand votes when he was elected federal deputy from RJ. Incumbent federal deputy Eduardo Cunha (PMDB), one of the main leaders of the evangelical caucus, was reelected with 232.7k votes in third position. Chico Alencar and Jean Wyllys (an openly gay LGBT rights activist), two prominent PSOL deputies, were reelected finishing in 4th and 7th places respectively. Marco Antônio Cabral (PMDB), the son of former governor Sérgio Cabral (2007-2014), was elected to the Chamber in 9th place. A candidate named ‘Barack Obama Claudio Henrique’ (PT) came 289th.

In Alagoas, former governor (and Collor’s former arch-nemesis) Ronaldo Lessa (PDT) was elected federal deputy, finishing in fifth place with 6.4%. Pedro Vilela (PSDB), the nephew of outgoing governor Teo Vilela Filho (PSDB), was elected coming in third place with 8.6%. Arthur Lira (PP), one of the leaders of the rural caucus (a conservative coalition of landowners and allies, who take stances opposed to environmental conservation and in favour of laxer deforestation and slave labour regulations) in the Chamber, was reelected coming in fourth with 7.1%. In Bahia, Mário Negromonte Jr. (PP), the son of disgraced former cabinet minister Mário Negromonte, was elected in second place with 2.6%. Lúcio Vieira Lima (PMDB), another leader of the rural caucus, was the most popular candidate in the state. In Pernambuco, the candidates of the late Eduardo Campos’ PSB-led coalition were the big winners, with 8 federal deputies for the PSB – up from 5 in 2010. Former governor Jarbas Vasconcelos (PMDB), a one-time opponent turned ally of the PSB (since 2012), was elected to the Chamber with 5.1%, in third place. In Santa Catarina, incumbent federal deputy and ruralista leader Esperidião Amin (PP) was reelected in first place. In Amazonas, former governor and cabinet minister Alfredo Nascimento (PR), was elected with 7.2%, placing third in the state. In the DF, former deputy Alberto Fraga (DEM) and former governor Rogério Rosso (PSD) were the top two candidates.

In the race for the Senate in São Paulo, José Serra (PSDB) was elected to the Senate in a landslide, winning an impressive 58.5% against 32.5% for incumbent senator Eduardo Suplicy (PT), a 73-year old veteran of Brazilian and paulista politics who had served three terms in the Senate (first elected in 1990). Former mayor Gilberto Kassab (PSD), an ally of the government but a friend of José Serra, won 5.9% though he didn’t put much effort in his campaign. In Minas Gerais, Aécio ally and former governor Antonio Anastasia (PSDB) was elected to the Senate in a landslide, winning 56.7% against 40.2% for Josué Alencar (PMDB), the candidate of the PMDB-PT. In Rio de Janeiro, Romário (PSB), the famous star striker from the Brazilian Seleção’s victorious 1994 US World Cup campaign who was elected to the Chamber in 2010, was elected to the Senate with a massive 63.4% of the vote. The former three-term mayor of Rio (1993-1997, 2001-2009), Cesar Maia (DEM), an old figure of fluminense and carioca politics, was soundly defeated winning only 20.5%. In Rio Grande do Sul, Lasier Martins (PDT), a TV reporter, was elected with 37.4% against 35.3% for Olívio Dutra (PT), a former governor (1999-2002). Incumbent senator Pedro Simon (PMDB), a respected 84-year old veteran of Brazilian politics (active since the 1950s) and a four-term senator (including three consecutive terms, serving since 1991), was dragged out of retirement at the last minute in August to replace initial candidate Beto Albuquerque (PSB) – who ran for Vice President – won only 16.1%.

In Bahia, outgoing vice-governor Otto Alencar (PSD), the candidate backed by the PT and its allies, was elected with 55.9% against 34.5% for Geddel Vieira Lima (PMDB), the candidate backed by the centre-right. In Ceará, former governor and senator Tasso Jereissati (PSDB), defeated for reelection in 2010, returned to the Senate, with an easy victory (57.9%). In Maranhão, Roberto Rocha (PSB) – the son of a former governor and an opponent of the Sarney clan – was elected, with 51.4%, defeating Gastão Vieira (PMDB), the former tourism minister backed by the Sarney clan and Dilma, who won 44.7%. In Alagoas, incumbent senator Fernando Collor (PTB) was reelected easily, taking 55.7% against 31.9% for former senator Heloísa Helena (PSOL), who had some underhanded support from the PSDB.

In the first round of gubernatorial elections, the most notable result was the PSDB’s landslide victory by the first round in São Paulo, where popular incumbent governor Geraldo Alckmin was reelected to a second consecutive term in office with 57.3% against 21.5% for Paulo Skaf (PMDB) and a disastrous 18.2% for the PT’s Alexandre Padilha, the former health minister. Alckmin’s landslide was one of the biggest victories for the PSDB on October 6 and it immediately made him a frontrunner – along with Aécio – for the presidential nomination in 2018. In Rio de Janeiro, incumbent PMDB governor Luiz Fernando Pezão – who took office in April 2014 to replace Sérgio Cabral, the increasingly unpopular two-term incumbent – placed first on October 6, with 40.6% against 20.3% for evangelical bishop and senator Marcelo Crivella (PRB), who narrowly (and surprisingly) qualified for the runoff ahead of former governor Anthony Garotinho (PR), who won 19.7%. Lindberg Farias (PT), a senator, won only 10%, a disastrous result for the PT in RJ. In Minas Gerais, one of the few bright spots for the PT, Fernando Pimentel (PT) – a former mayor of Belo Horizonte (2002-2009) and industry minister (2011-2014) – was elected in the first round, with 53% against 41.9% for Aécio’s candidate Pimenta da Veiga (PSDB). The PSDB had controlled the state governorship since 2003. In Rio Grande do Sul, which is a notoriously anti-incumbent state, incumbent governor Tarso Genro (PT) was in trouble after the first round, where he won 32.6%, quite some distance behind centre-right candidate José Ivo Sartori (PMDB), who could count on the backing of third-place finisher, centre-right senator Ana Amélia Lemos (PP), who won 21.8%. In Paraná, in another major victory for the PSDB, incumbent governor Beto Richa (PSDB) was easily reelected with 55.7% against 27.7% for senator and former governor Roberto Requião (PMDB). Gleisi Hoffman (PT), a close Dilma ally as her Chief of Staff from 2011 to 2014, placed third with a disastrous 14.9% after having been touted as a formidable candidate.

In Alagoas, Renan Filho (PMDB), the son of the President of the Senate Renan Calheiros (PMDB), was elected governor with 52.2%. In Bahia, federal deputy Rui Costa (PT) was elected to succeed term-limited governor Jaques Wagner (PT) with 54.3% in the first round against 37.4% for former governor Paulo Souto (DEM), who had led every single poll except the last one which had indicated a 46-46 tie between the two candidates. In the DF, unpopular incumbent governor Agnelo Queiroz (PT) was defeated by the first round, placing third with 20.1%, with senator Rodrigo Rollemberg (PSB) and federal deputy Jofran Frejat (PR) advancing to the runoff. In Maranhão, Sarney opponent Flávio Dino (PCdoB), at the helm of a composite anti-Sarney coalition, was elected in the first round, with 63.5% against senator Edison Lobão Filho (PMDB), the candidate supported by the Sarney clan (outgoing governor Roseana Sarney) and the President. In Pará, after the first round, incumbent governor Simão Jatene (PSDB) found himself locked in a very close contest against Helder Barbalho (PMDB), the young son of famous corrupt senator Jader Barbalho (PMDB) – Barbalho led with 49.9% against 48.5% for the incumbent. In Pernambuco, Paulo Câmara (PSB) – backed by the late Eduardo Campos – was elected in a landslide, winning 68.1% against 31.1% for senator Armando Monteiro (PTB), the candidate supported by Dilma’s PT. In Rio Grande do Norte, where incumbent governor Rosalba Ciarlini (DEM) didn’t even bother seeking an impossible second term, the first round was inconclusive – Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB), the President of the Chamber and member of a highly powerful local political dynasty in RN, was in first with 47.3% against 42% for vice-governor Robinson Faria (PSD), who had broken with the outgoing DEM governor in 2011.

National Results – October 26, 2014

Turnout in the first round was 78.9%.

Dilma Rousseff (PT) 51.64%
Aécio Neves (PSDB) 48.36%

Blank votes 1.71%
Invalid votes 4.63%

Brazil 2014 - Runoff

President Dilma Rousseff (PT), after one of the most exciting and open-ended presidential races in the history of modern Brazilian democracy, was narrowly reelected at the helm of a polarized and divided Brazil, with 51.64% against 48.36% for her opponent, Senator Aécio Neves (PSDB) – who, in the end, came closer to defeating Dilma than anyone could have imagined a few shorts weeks and months beforehand.

Unlike in the first round, there were no surprises in the national results – despite tucanos clinging to faint hopes that Aécio would still prevail as the underdog, the result was in line with was expected: a close race, but with a narrow edge to the incumbent President. Aécio barely overperformed his final polling numbers (47-48%).

The 2014 election – decided by a margin of 3.28% in the decisive round – was the closest direct presidential election in the history of the Nova República (New Republic)/Sixth Republic (that is to say since the end of the military regime) and even the entire history of Brazil. Prior to 2014, the closest post-military election had been Collor’s 1989 victory over Lula, with 6.1% in the second round. Cardoso had won by the first round in 1994 and 1998, Lula won in 2002 and 2006 by 22.6% and 21.7% respectively and Dilma was elected to her first term following a 12.1% victory in the second round against the PSDB’s José Serra. To find a presidential race closer than 2014, we need to go back to the Fourth Republic (1945-1964), which had single-round (FPTP) presidential elections – in 1955, Juscelino Kubitschek won by 5.4%. The 1960 vice-presidential election (back then, the VP was elected separately) was closer than 2014 – João Goulart won by 2.4%.

IBOVESPA stock exchange value, Aug. 1 to Oct. 29 (source: Google Finance)

The 2014 presidential election painted the picture of a deeply polarized and divided country – a reality which has led several Brazilian observers to draw parallels to the US, especially with the rise of voting patterns polarized along regional lines in Brazil and of red states/blue states similar to those in the US (of course, it’s a very academic thing to do, since states don’t matter in presidential races in Brazil, unlike in the US). Dilma, for a whole host of reasons, has become a very polarizing and divisive President, a love-hate figure who has a very strong base of support but also a very vocal base of opponents. Her opponents accuse her of financial mismanagement, rising inflation, low economic growth, complicity in corruption scandals, disrespecting the Central Bank’s autonomy,  the unsustainable growth of the public sector, profligate spending and taxation, opaque and discretionary dealings with businesses and the private sector and the rapid increase of public credit and subsidies (loans by state-owned banks) to companies. Dilma’s economic policies and mediocre record on economic and fiscal issues has also won her the disapproval of Brazilian markets, shareholders, domestic and foreign investors.

During the campaign, it was quite interesting to observe how the value of the BF&M BOVESPA (the São Paulo stock exchange) and the value of the real to the US dollar fluctuated in line with polls and campaign events – the stock exchange fell whenever polls favourable to Dilma came out, rose whenever good news for Marina/Aécio came out. The stock exchange’s value declined throughout September, as the odds increasingly favoured a Dilma reelection, but the stock exchange rose after Dilma’s poor result on October 6 before falling during the runoff campaign as Aécio’s early momentum wore off. It fell to a low after Dilma’s reelection. Similarly, the real fell throughout September as polls favoured Dilma, and rose on October 6 before falling to a new low against the US dollar following Dilma’s reelection. Dilma’s critics point out that she will need to give clear indications and favourable impressions to the markets – notably over her choice of a finance minister to replace Guido Mantega, also disliked by the markets. Her supporters argue, on the other hand, that Dilma was elected by voters and doesn’t owe anything to the markets.

Dilma will face a tough second term. On an economic front, bad numbers have continued to pile up since the election: inflation breaking the upper band (6.5%), low growth, the government failing to meet its primary surplus targets, somber markets and a low real. The appointment of Joaquim Levy, a banker with a PhD from the University of Chicago, as her new finance minister suggests that she will reorient her economic policies in a more conservative, neoliberal direction.

Politically, she becomes a lame-duck president who will see her own party and many of her allies – especially the PMDB – quickly looking ahead to 2018, where there is no obvious government dauphin waiting in the wings. She already had a tough relationship with Congress during her first term, she might face an even tougher one. Finally, the Petrobras scandal is quite big, and it’s not clear how big it could go. The opposition and Dilma’s critics have been pounding her relentlessly on the scandal, and certain people have already talked of impeachment.

Winner’s margin of victory by municipality (source: Folha de S. Paulo)

More than ever before, the election was polarized on regional lines. It is quite interesting to note that, compared to 2010, when Dilma won by 12.1%, only one federal unit – the DF – switched from the PT to the PSDB, despite a much narrower PT victory of 3.3% in 2014. The 2014 election was therefore more intensely polarized on regional lines than ever before – something which many inevitably compare to the US, increasingly polarized with ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’.

Absolutely key to Dilma’s victory was her massive margins in the Nordeste. In the region as a whole, she won 71.7%, compared to 70.6% in 2010. There were significant swings in her favour in the states of Alagoas (+8.49%), Paraíba (+2.71%), Piauí (+8.32%) and most impressively so in Rio Grande do Norte (+10.42%) and Sergipe (+13.45%). In the states of Bahia (-0.69%), Ceará (-0.6%) and Maranhão (-0.33%), the petista vote fell by less than 1% since 2010. The only Nordeste state which did witness a significant swing in line with the national trend was Pernambuco, where Aécio improved on Serra’s 2010 numbers by 5.45% – although even in Eduardo Campos’ old bastion, Dilma still won 70.2% of the vote.

Dilma’s numbers in the Nordeste varied between a high of 78.8% in Maranhão and a low of 62.1% in Alagoas – unlike in 2010, when she had been held under 60% in Alagoas, Sergipe and Rio Grande do Norte, Dilma won over 60% in every single state. In the Nordeste, her best results came from the inland semi-arid sertão – the poorest region in the country – where she won over 70%, if not 80%, of the vote in the vast majority of municipalities. She was weaker in urban areas (a reversal of the pre-2006 situation, where Northeastern cities leaned more to the left than rural areas did), which are wealthier and economically developed/diversified – Dilma won 59.2% in Recife (PE), down from 66.4% in 2010; yet she won 58.1% in Natal (RN), 51.1% in Maceió (AL) and 59.6% in Aracaju (SE) – all of which she had lost in 2010. Dilma won by large, albeit reduced, margins in 68% in Fortaleza, CE (68%), São Luis, MA (70.4%) and Salvador, BA (67.3%). Aécio won 58% in Campina Grande (PB), the second largest city in Paraíba and an affluent high-tech/university centre.

Aécio’s inability to make significant inroads in the Nordeste was one of the factors which led to his narrow defeat. The case of Pernambuco is rather instructive: Marina had won the state with 48% on October 6, causing Dilma’s support to fall by 17.5% compared to the first round in 2010. While Aécio was not expected to come close to winning the state, which remains a left-leaning Northeastern state, he could likely have done better, if he had been able to carry more of Marina’s first round voters. He gained 5.5% from José Serra’s 2010 results in PE (still the largest pro-PSDB swing in the Nordeste).

The importance of the Nordeste to Dilma’s victory led some angry anti-Dilma voters on Twitter to respond with pretty undignified and appalling comments on Twitter, attacking the region and its voters as ‘stupid’ in pretty melodramatic terms (under the hashtag #RIPBrasil).

Results by municipality in MG (source: Estadão)

The state of Minas Gerais was the bellwether swing state of this election. Although it wasn’t the decisive state – Dilma won by 3.46 million votes nationally and by 550,601 votes in MG – it was a key battleground, as well as the closest state (that the tightest state was still carried with 52.4% also shows how polarized the election was). Every victorious presidential candidate in Brazilian democratic history has carried MG, with the exception of Vargas in 1950. Dilma carried MG – Aécio’s home state (she was born in MG as well, but her political career was in RS) – with 52.41%, a substantial 6% loss from 2010, suggesting that Aécio did have a home state effect even if he failed to carry MG.

Minas Gerais is an extremely diverse state, in some ways a microcosm of the country as a whole. The map to the right shows the results of the second round by municipality, revealing some fairly clearly delineated regional differences within the state. The northeast and southeast of the state – the mesorregiões of Noroeste do Minas, Norte do Minas, Jequitinhonha, Vale do Mucuri, Vale do Rio Doce and Zona da Mata – voted heavily for Dilma, particularly the northeastern half. A natural extension of the Nordeste, this region is significantly poorer (and browner) than the rest of the state. The far north of the state is considered part of the sertão and the semi-arid low rainfall polígono das secas. Dilma won over 75-80% in a number of municipalities in the northeastern extremity of Minas, numbers very similar to what she won just across state lines in Bahia.

% vulnerable to poverty in MG (Atlas do Desenvolvimento Humano no Brasil, UNDP)

On the other hand, Aécio did very well in the Belo Horizonte metro area – in the state capital, an affluent urban centre, he won 64.3%, compared to only 50.4% for Serra four years ago. He also swung several suburban municipalities, including Contagem. Aécio also improved in the southwest of the state, an economically developed and fairly well-off region demographically similar to neighboring areas in the state of São Paulo. The one oddity, however, was Dilma’s decisive victory in the Triângulo Mineiro and Alto Paranaíba – the far west appendage of Minas – which is the wealthiest region in the state. Given that demographically similar areas across state lines in Goiás voted PSDB, I hypothesize that this region’s unusual left-wing leanings may be due to the strong regionalist movement in the area seeking statehood.

Another key state for Dilma’s victory was Rio de Janeiro, where she won 54.9%, down 5.5% from 60.5% in 2010. It was a pretty bad year for the left and the PT in particular in RJ, an historically left-leaning state. Dilma lost over 10% from her 2010 result in the city of Rio, squeaking out an extremely narrow 50.8% victory over Aécio. She was defeated in the affluent liberal city of Niterói across the Bay from Rio, with Aécio winning 54.9% compared to Serra’s 47.4% four years ago. Dilma, however, held tight in Rio’s poorer northern suburbs, suffering less severe loses compared to 2010. She won 69.1% in Duque de Caxias, 63.9% in Nova Iguaçu, 66% in São João de Meriti, 74.8% in Belford Roxo and 68% in São Gonçalo.

While the Nordeste trended even further to the left, Aécio raked up some impressive margins in the richer and traditionally right-leaning states of São Paulo and the South. In the key Southeast swing region (made up of MG, RJ, ES and SP), Aécio won 56.2% compared to 48.1% for Serra in 2010. In the South, which was Serra’s best region with 53.9% in 2010, Aécio won 58.9%. He also carried the Centre-West region with 57.4%, a major improvement from Serra’s 50.9% in the region in 2010. In the state of São Paulo, the tucano stronghold par excellence, Aécio won an historic 64.3% – meaning that Dilma lost a massive 10.3% from her 2010 support in the state. In the bloodbath, Aécio carried all of the state’s major cities and demolished the PT even in its old strongholds – the industrial ABC paulista (the birthplace of the PT) and Campinas’ industrial suburbs. In the right-leaning city of São Paulo, which José Serra had won with 53.6% in 2010, Aécio won 63.8%. In the ABC paulista, Dilma only narrowly retained Diadema, with 53.9% (66.5% in 2010); she lost in São Bernardo do Campo (falling from 56.2% to 44.1%), Santo André (falling from 48.8% to 36.7%) and Mauá (from 57% to 43.8%). Although the ABC paulista remains poorer than downtown São Paulo, the region has changed substantially since Lula was a trade union leader in the 1970s-1980s – it has become wealthier, economic liberalization has transformed the local economy and heavy industry has declined in favour of services and commerce.

The predominantly white and wealthy southern states of Paraná and Santa Catarina also swung heavily to Aécio – who won 61% and 64.6% in those states, +5.5% and +8% respectively from 2010. In Rio Grande do Sul – which really forms a distinctive regional subculture on its own, and is politically complicated – Aécio won 53.5%, and the swing was smaller (+2.6% on 2010). Perhaps Aécio would have preferred if Dilma carried RS – the state has voted for the loser in every election since 1989, except 2002!

The only federal unit to vote for a different party than in 2010 was the Federal District (Brasília) – which had the second largest swing of any federal unit in Brazil. Dilma had narrowly carried the DF with 52.8% in 2010; four years later, her vote share fell by 14.7% and Aécio won the DF with no less than 61.9%. The DF has the highest HDI of all federal units; it is a largely middle-class district, with an economy heavily driven by the federal government/public sector. While affluent, its public sector-driven economy has meant that the DF has usually leaned somewhat to the left. This year’s result is part of a broader trend which saw middle-class areas of all kind swing heavily towards Aécio, even those like the DF or Rio which have large public sector employment. Middle-class voters have shifted away from the PT since 2006, this year the swing was even more pronounced. Middle-class voters tend to be particularly sensitive to corruption and they largely dislike Dilma’s economic and fiscal policies. In the DF specifically, Dilma was also badly hurt by the unpopularity of the incumbent PT governor, defeated in the first round.

In the other states of the Centre-West (which all voted for Aécio), Goiás swung towards the PSDB (+6.4%) while Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul had smaller swings (+3.6% and +1.2% respectively).

The North is an odd region when it comes to politics – and it had some odd results this year. Dilma improved on her horrendous 2010 results in Acre and Roraima, gaining 6% and 7.7% respectively (she still lost both, 63.7-36.3 in AC and 59-41 in RR); she also improved in Pará (+4.2%) and Tocantins (+0.6%). However, the state of Amazonas – where she won 80.6% in 2010 – had the biggest swing in the country, with her support falling by 15.6 points to 65%. I’m not quite sure why Amazonas swung so heavily against her while Acre, Roraima and Pará swung particularly heavily towards her – local factors probably a big reason here.

First round results in municipalities with over 30% of the population receiving the Bolsa Família (source: Folha de S. Paulo)

As in the first round the main determinant of voting patterns were class, economic development, race and federal social programs. Going back to Veja and the Folha‘s interactive maps, looking at the results in those municipalities where over 30% of families receive the Bolsa Família is again very telling. There are some exceptions, but basically the vast, vast majority of municipalities where over three in ten receive the Bolsa Família voted for Dilma – usually by big margins. Few of these poor municipalities voted for Aécio. On the other hand, there are relatively few regions where less than 30% receive the Bolsa Família that voted for Dilma. The urban areas of the Nordeste, RJ, the Triângulo Mineiro, Minas’ Zona da Mata and rural RS appear as the only ‘wealthier’ regions which voted for Dilma.

All in all, the 2014 election continued geographic and demographic trends which begun in 2006. However, the class and regional polarization was much deeper in 2014 than in 2006 or 2010. Middle-class states and cities moved further to the right, while poor states and cities swung less heavily or even moved further to the left. The results in the cities of São Paulo, Curitiba (PR), Porto Alegre (RS), Goiânia (GO), Florianópolis (SC), Belo Horizonte (MG), Brasília and Rio de Janeiro – predominantly middle-class cities – are quite telling. They all moved further to the right, even in cities like Porto Alegre, Brasília, BH and Rio which had left-wing leanings in the past.

In gubernatorial runoffs, Rio de Janeiro reelected Luiz Fernando Pezão (PMDB) with 55.8% in a runoff against Marcelo Crivella, the evangelical bishop and senator. In anti-incumbent Rio Grande do Sul, incumbent governor Tarso Genro (PT) was unsurprisingly defeated by a wide margin by centre-right candidate José Ivo Sartori (PMDB), who won 61.2%. In the DF, no surprises as senator Rodrigo Rollemberg (PSB) defeated Jofran Frejat (PR) with 55.6%. In Goiás, incumbent tucano governor Marconi Perillo won a second term with 57.4% of the vote. In Rio Grande do Norte, vice-governor Robinson Faria (PSD) defeated Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB) by a comfortable margin, winning 54.4%. In Pará, governor Simão Jatene (PSDB) won reelection narrowly with 51.9% in a close contest with Helder Barbalho (PMDB). Only one woman was elected governor in 2014, in Roraima.

Continue to read below the fold for full state-by-state results.

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Local elections galore: Brazil, Chile, Finland and Sicily 2012

A whole slew of local (or regional) elections were held on October 28. There were mayoral runoff elections in Brazil, municipal elections in Chile and Finland and a regional election (for governor and regional legislature) in Sicily (Italy). This post tells you everything you need to know about these elections and what they mean for each of these countries.


The first round of municipal elections were held in Brazil on October 7, 2012. I covered the first round in lots of details here. On October 28, there were mayoral runoff elections in all those municipalities with over 200,000 voters where no mayoral candidate had won 50%+1 of the vote two weeks before. Municipal city councils (câmaras municipais) and mayors in all cities with less than 200,000 voters and a few major cities (Rio, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Porto Alegre) were elected on October 7.

Here is the updated table of parties, with mayors (after the second round) and municipal councillors across Brazil:

PMDB 1,025 mayors (-176) and 7,963 councillors (-512)
PSDB 702 mayors (-89) and 5,255 councillors (-641)
PT 635 mayors (+77) and 5,181 councillors (+1,013)
PSD 497 mayors (+497) and 4,662 councillors (+4,662)
PP 468 mayors (-83) and 4,932 councillors (-197)
PSB 440 mayors (+130) and 3,555 councillors (+599)
PDT 314 mayors (-38) and 3,660 councillors (+135)
PTB 295 mayors (-118) and 3,571 councillors (-363)
DEM 278 mayors (-218) and 3,272 councillors (-1,529)
PR 276 mayors (-109) and 3,190 councillors (-344)
PPS 123 mayors (-6) and 1,861 councillors (-298)
PV 96 mayors (+21) and 1,584 councillors (+347)
PSC 83 mayors (+26) and 1,468 councillors (+322)
PRB 78 mayors (+24) and 1,204 councillors (+423)
PCdoB 56 mayors (+15) and 976 councillors (+364)
PMN 42 mayors (nc) and 605 councillors (+15)
PTdoB 26 mayors (+18) and 534 councillors (+205)
PRP 24 mayors (+7) and 581 councillors (+177)
PSL 23 mayors (+8) and 761 councillors (+241)
PTC 18 mayors (+5) and 484 councillors (+153)
PHS 17 mayors (+4) and 544 councillors (+193)
PRTB 16 mayors (+5) and 418 councillors (+157)
PPL 12 mayors (+12) and 176 councillors (+176)
PTN 12 mayors (-4) and 429 councillors (+29)
PSDC 9 mayors (+1) and 446 councillors (+95)
PSOL/PCB/PSTU 2 mayors (+2) and 56 councillors (+16) incl. 49 PSOL, 5 PCB, 2 PSTU
Others 240 mayors (-2)

The most important mayoral runoff battle was in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and economic capital. The incumbent mayor, Gilberto Kassab (PSD) was retiring. The battle opposed José Serra (PSDB), a former mayor/governor/cabinet minister and two time presidential candidate and education minister Fernando Haddad (PT), handpicked by former President Lula. In the first round, Serra won 30.8% against 29% for Haddad, relegating one-time favourite Celso Russomano (PRB) into third with 21.6% support. Russomano did not endorse any candidate, while fourth-place finisher Gabriel Chalita (PMDB) backed Haddad.

Fernando Haddad (PT) 55.57%
José Serra (PSDB) 44.43%

As predicted by the polls, Haddad won by a significant margin. His victory is the result of a number of factors: Lula’s popularity, even in traditionally right-leaning  middle-class São Paulo (in this case, Haddad’s moderate image and Dilma’s large popularity with middle-class Brazilians likely helped too) and Serra’s unpopularity stemming from his inability to accept that maybe it’s time for him to leave politics. While the PT had fairly mixed results in other large cities and state capitals across the country, they did win the race which in the end mattered the most: São Paulo. Lula’s ability to get his candidate elected – because Haddad’s success is in large part due to his mentor (he started out at 5% in the polls) – is a major success for the former President who was turned into the behind-the-scenes boss of the PT.

The PSDB had good results in small and medium-sized towns in the state of São Paulo, but the loss of the state capital must still be a major blow to the party. It is a particularly severe blow to José Serra, whose presidential ambitions for 2014 were likely killed by his defeat (though he is more and more delusional that we shouldn’t put it past him to run for something again, even if under his friend Kassab’s PSD banner rather than the tucano banner). The PSDB chose a poor candidate in Serra, when they had a fairly strong and talented bench. The country’s largest centre-right opposition party will need to find new blood, new talents and new ideas if it is to stand a chance in 2014 and beyond.

O Globo has an interesting map with results by precinct in São Paulo. The patterns are unsurprising: Haddad utterly dominated the traditionally petista working-class and low-income outskirts/suburbs of the city, while Serra was strongest in the upper middle-class bourgeois areas downtown. In the first round, Russomano and Chalita’s strength in the petista outskirts of the city had held down Haddad’s vote share, but in the runoff he certainly really maximized his votes. Compared to the 2010 presidential election, he improved on Dilma’s showing in the petista areas and made sizable gains in more middle-class areas where the centre-right is usually quite strong.

Salvador (Bahia), however, was a major blow for the PT. The state of Bahia has been governed for two terms by a PT governor, which has allowed the party to gain a strong institutional base at all levels of government in the state. However, governor Jaques Wagner (PT)’s approval ratings have been down recently. Holding a narrow advantage in the first round, federal deputy ACM Neto – the grandson of the state’s former conservative dynastic boss – won the runoff by a sizable margin over PT candidate Nelson Pelegrino. This victory, however, is certainly the only source of comfort for the crippled right-wing Democrats (DEM) in this election. They suffered embarrassing defeats almost everywhere else, putting the party’s continued existence into serious doubt.

ACM Neto (DEM) 53.51%
Nelson Pelegrino (PT) 46.49%

The first round in Curitiba (Paraná) saw the surprising defeat of incumbent mayor Luciano Ducci (PSB), backed by the state’s ambitious PSDB governor Beto Richo (himself a former mayor of Curitiba). The runoff opposed Ratinho Jr. (PSC), the son of a popular talk show host and TV personality and former federal deputy Gustavo Fruet (PDT), backed by the PT (despite being a former tucano). Fruet, backed by Dilma and her popular chief of staff Gleisi Hoffmann (the PT’s likely gubernatorial candidate in the state in 2014), handily defeated Ratinho Jr. and his anti-establishment campaign.

Gustavo Fruet (PDT) 60.65%
Ratinho Jr. (PSC) 39.35%

Manaus (Amazonas) had fairly interesting results in the first round, largely because of the unexpected strong showing from former PSDB senator Artur Virgílio Neto (PSDB) who placed way ahead of senator Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB, backed by the PT). After a strong first round, Artur Neto – who lost reelection to the senate in 2010 – was easily elected. This is a fairly unwelcome defeat for the PT.

Artur Virgílio Neto (PSDB) 65.95%
Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB) 34.05%

The runoff in Fortaleza (Ceará), which opposed Roberto Cláudio (PSB) – the candidate backed by governor Cid Gomes (PSB) and his brother Ciro Gomes (PSB, a former presidential candidate/governor/mayor/cabinet minister) – and Elmano de Freitas (PT), backed by term-limited PT mayor Luizianne Lins was one of the most closely disputed battles between the PT and the PSB in Brazil. The PT and PSB, traditional allies for over twenty years, are slowly drifting away from one another. The PSB governor of Pernambuco, Eduardo Campos, is often talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2014 – perhaps even in a super-ticket with the opposition PSDB. Strong from a big victory in Recife in the first round, this race as well as that in Cuiabá were major tests for the PSB and Eduardo Campos’ presidential ambitions. The PSB emerged victorious in a close race.

Roberto Cláudio (PSB) 53.52%
Elmano (PT) 46.98%

Boosted by the support of popular state governor Simão Jatene (PSDB), federal deputy Zenaldo Countinho (PSDB) emerged victorious in Belém (Pará). He defeated popular state deputy and former mayor Edmilson Rodrigues (PSOL) by a nice big margin.

Zenaldo Countinho (PSDB) 56.61%
Edmilson Rodrigues (PSOL) 43.39%

As mentioned above, Cuiabá (Mato Grosso) was another major PT-PSB battle with clear national implications. Again, it was the PSB, whose candidate benefited from the backing of powerful senator Blairo Maggi (PR) and senator, which emerged victorious against the PT candidate, backed by the PMDB governor.

Mauro Mendes (PSB) 54.65%
Lúdio (PT) 45.35%

As expected, former mayor Carlos Eduardo Alves (PDT) easily regained his old seat in Natal (Rio Grande do Norte). One of the countless scions of a very powerful and influential oligarchic dynasty in the state – his cousin Garibaldi Alves Filho (PMDB) is a cabinet minister and his uncle is a former governor – he was opposed to Hermano Moraes, the PMDB candidate backed by his other cousin, PMDB house leader Henrique Eduardo Alves.

Carlos Eduardo Alves (PDT) 58.31%
Hermano Moraes (PMDB) 41.69%

Teresina (Piauí) mayor Elmano Férrer (PTB), backed by the PMDB, lost reelection to former mayor and state deputy Firmino Filho (PSDB).

Firmino Filho (PSDB) 51.54%
Elmano Férrer (PTB) 48.46%

São Luis (Maranhão) mayor João Castelo (PSDB) lost reelection to Edivaldo Holanda Jr. (PTC), a result which is a good post for Embratur president and former federal deputy Flávio Dino (PCdoB), a major rival of the local Sarney dynasty.

Edivaldo Holanda Jr. (PTC) 56.06%
João Castelo (PSDB) 43.94%

In other races across the country:

The PSB’s Jonas Donizette (backed by the PSDB) defeated the PT’s Marcio Pochmann with 57.69% in Campinas, the third city in the state of São Paulo. In Ribeirão Preto (São Paulo), incumbent mayor Dárcy Vera (PSD, backed by the PMDB) narrowly defeated the PSDB’s Darcy Nogueira with 51.97%. In other cities in the state, the PT enjoyed a solid win over the PSDB in Guarulhos and gained Santo André – though on the other hand, it lost its traditional stronghold of Diadema and the PSDB won a significant victory in Taubaté.

In Florianópolis, the capital of the southern state of Santa Catarina, state deputy César Souza Jr. (PSD) – backed by PSD governor Raimundo Colombo – defeated Gean Loureiro (PMDB), the candidate backed by the city’s two-term PMDB mayor and senator and former governor Luiz Henrique da Silveira (PMDB). He won 52.64% against 47.36% for Loureiro. However, the PMDB was successful against the PSD in the state’s largest city, Joinville, where the PMDB’s Udo Dohler won 54.65%. The PSDB enjoyed a landslide over the PSD in Blumenau.

What do these results mean for the 2014 presidential and federal elections in Brazil? The PT itself comes out strong, especially with Haddad’s victory in São Paulo even though its record elsewhere is more disappointing. President Dilma retains very strong approval ratings and she would probably enter a reelection campaign in 2014, even against strong PSDB and PSB candidates, as the favourite. Lula’s hand was strengthened by the results in São Paulo, but to date there have been no public spats between Lula and his former protege (Dilma) and a Lula primary challenge in 2014 remains unlikely.

The opposition remains weak and the PSDB is in dire need of newer generations or new(er) ideas, but it does have some strong hopes for 2014. The early favourite for the opposition is Minas Gerais senator Aécio Neves (PSDB), who was boosted by the victory of his ally Márcio Lacerda (PSB) in Belo Horizonte by the first round and whose candidates were otherwise quite successful in the state (with a few exceptions). His defeat in São Paulo means that José Serra will probably not run for president in 2014, and Paraná governor Beto Richa (PSDB)’s potential ambitions took a hit with his candidates’ defeats in Curitiba, Londrina and other cities in Paraná. São Paulo’s governor Geraldo Alckmin, who ran for president against Lula in 2006, is popular but he will certainly prefer to run for reelection in his state, where he would be the favourite to win a second term.

The PSB emerged much stronger from these elections, and the party won almost all its high-profile targets: Recife, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Cuiabá and Campinas. These results will serve to boost Pernambuco governor Eduardo Campos’ presidential ambitions for 2014. It is not yet certain whether or not the PSB will break all bridges with the PT in 2014 and endorse Eduardo Campos for president (or if he will prefer to wait until 2018, for example); but the odds seem to be that Campos will run in 2014. Again, there has been talk of the PSB and PSDB forming some sort of super-ticket with Campos and Aécio (though the ‘order’ of the ticket could be a source of division between the two) in 2014. Regardless, the 2014 election promises to be an exciting and closely disputed election.


Municipal elections were held in Chile on October 28. All mayors and municipal councillors are directly and separately elected to serve four-year terms, there are no term limits. Mayors are elected by FPTP, while the municipal councils – which are composed of 6, 8 or 10 councillors based on the size of the city, seem to be elected through some kind of open-list PR. There are 345 mayors and 2,224 municipal councillors.

In 2010, Sebastián Piñera became the first right-of-centre candidate to be elected president of Chile since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1990. His election ended twenty-years of rule by the centre-left coalition, namely the broad-based and heterogeneous Concertación coalition which is composed of christian democrats, social democrats and liberals. However, more than halfway into his term (he cannot seek immediate reelection in 2013-2014), Piñera’s approval ratings languish below 40%. The successful rescue of 33 trapped miners in a mine in northern Chile back in August 2010 had made his approvals go through the roof, but over two years later, the shine has definitely worn off.

In 2011, Piñera faced a major student movement which protested the country’s free-market and for-profit secondary and post-secondary education system. Chile’s education system, which dates back to Pinochet’s regime, is dominated by the private sector which runs most high schools and universities. Government spending on education accounts for only 4.4% of the GDP (the UN recommends 7% for developed nations), the limited public education system is run by individual municipalities and the government makes wide use of school vouchers. The protests demanded the end of profit in higher education, currently banned by the law but nonetheless widespread; increased state support for universities; more state spending in education; tougher state supervision and control of secondary education and limiting the extent of the voucher system. Piñera’s government handling of the student crisis proved unpopular and he appeared hostile to the movement’s demands – in fact, he proposed to legalize for-profit post-secondary education. By now, the student movement has dissipated somewhat, though the remnants of the movement have apparently radicalized.

He also faced unexpectedly strong public discontent over the HydroAysén hydroelectric project in Patagonia. This huge energy project plans to build five new hydroelectric dams in Patagonia, aiming to meet the country’s rising energetic needs. The public has been largely opposed to this project, decrying the environmental and agricultural impacts of the huge project on the region’s fragile ecosystem and local agriculture.

However, the opposition – the Concertación coalition – is not in the best of shape. The old disparate coalition is increasingly divided and lacks new ideas. The student movement could be seen as being indicative of a larger desire for major sociopolitical change in Chile, where the negotiated transition from military rule to multi-party democracy allowed strong economic growth and development but kept intact some vestiges of the old regime: the Senate’s composition, the electoral system or the education system. Many on the left are eager for more profound change including a constituent assembly and a new “socioeconomic model”. The Concertación, while in power, proved either unable or unwilling to confront issues such as education, energy or economic inequalities.

The Concertación, as in the 2008 municipal elections, was divided going into the election. The Socialists (PS) and the Christian Democrats (PDC) remained united under the banner of the Concertación, but the two other parties of the old coalition – the liberal PRSD and the centre-left PPD – allied with the Communist Party (PCC) under the coalition Por un Chile Justo. The PRSD has openly stated that it believes that the Concertación coalition has done its time and that it is time to move on. The PPD and PRSD had already fought the 2008 elections separately from the PS and the PDC. The left, since the 2009-2010 election, must now wrestle with a new actor: the El Cambio por Ti coalition and the Progressive Party (PRO) of former left-wing independent presidential candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami. Marco won over 20% in the first round of the 2009 presidential election, though he has largely been unable to translate his personal votes into strong support for his new coalition.

The governing centre-right coalition, the Coalición, composed of Piñera’s RN and the formerly pinochetista right-wing UDI, remained united.

This was the first election in Chile were voting was no longer mandatory. In the past, registration was voluntary but voting was mandatory; now registration is automatic (the result has been the registration of 4.5 million Chileans, largely young who had not registered to vote in the past) but voting is voluntary. Turnout was very low, around 40-45%. This low turnout reflects, again, growing dissatisfaction with politics. Few voters trust their politicians, institutions and political parties; the youth feeling particularly left out and disappointed by politics.

Results of the 2012 Chilean mayoral elections by municipality (source:

The government website is a horrible mess, but it appears that, nationally, the right won 37.5% of the vote and 121 mayors while the Concertación won 29% and 106 mayors. The PPD-PRSD-PCC coalition won 13.7% and 62 mayors. Enríquez-Ominami’s coalition won only 3% and 7 towns. Independents accounted for 11% of the national vote and were victorious in 40 municipalities. In 2008, the right won 40.7% against 28.7% for the Concertación and 9.7% for the PPD-PRSD.

These results are an unexpected success for the opposition, despite its disunity; and a setback for the governing right-wing coalition. The right was likely hurt by the low turnout, the opposition’s base being far more motivated to turn out. Prominent right-wing incumbents were defeated in high-profile races in major municipalities, including a lot in the Santiago metropolis.

In Santiago itself, incumbent mayor Pablo Zalaquett (UDI) was defeated by Carolina Tohá (PPD), the daughter of a former Allende cabinet minister and herself chief of staff to President Michelle Bachelet. Zalaquett, formerly mayor of the suburban town of La Florida, had won a first term in 2008. His management of the 2011 student protests in the city had been controversial. He won 43.89% against 50.63% for Carolina Tohá.

The middle-class suburb of Providencia in the Santiago metropolis had been the stronghold of Cristián Labbé (UDI), who had been a close ally of Augusto Pinochet, since 1996. Voters had backed him because of his reputation as a good administration, despite his close association with the military regimne. His defeat this year in the hands of an independent backed by the Concertación, Josefa Errázuriz, was a major symbolic defeat for the right. Errázuriz won 56.06% against 43.93% for Cristián Labbé, who was seeking a fifth term in office.

Another upper middle-class suburb of Santiago, Ñuñoa, also saw the defeat of a four-term right-wing incumbent, Pedro Sabat (RN). Maya Fernandez Allende (PS), a granddaughter of Salvador Allende, won 44.9% against 44.7% for Pedro Sabat.

In Recoleta, Daniel Jadue (PCC) defeated the incumbent UDI mayor and a former right-wing mayor, Gonzalo Cornejo, who ran as an independent.

In Concepción, the major city of southern Chile, held by a retiring right-wing incumbent, Álvaro Ortiz (PDC) won 55.15% against only 37.25% for the UDI candidate. The opposition also gained Punta Arenas in the far south of the country.

The right held Valparaíso (UDI), Puento Alto (RN), Las Condes (UDI) and La Florida (UDI). The opposition held Maipú (PDC) and Peñaloén (PDC).

Speculation about the 2013-2014 presidential election has been building up for quite some time. The Concertación, unwilling to confront its internal problems and high risk for more divisions in 2013, has been playing a game of wait-and-see until former President Michelle Bachelet (PS), Piñera’s predecessor who left office with sky-high approval ratings, decides whether or not she wants to run for another term. Bachelet remains very popular, even if some of her record is now being criticized. She would certainly be capable of holding the Concertación together for another go-through and polls indicate that she would be the favourite for the presidency. If she does not run, the opposition does have other fairly strong candidates but no clear frontrunners. Some of these other names include Andrés Velasco, an economist and Bachelet’s popular finance minister; the new mayor of Santiago Carolina Tohá and the PDC mayor of Peñaloén Claudio Orrego. Some senators are also lining up.

The right has four potential candidates: defense minister Andrés Allamand (RN), economy minister Pablo Longueira (UDI), labour minister Evelyn Matthei (UDI) and public works (former mines and energy) minister Laurence Golborne (independent). Allamand and Golborne are the two most prominent candidates in this field, and probably the two who stand the best chances in a presidential election. Golborne, an independent figure, became very popular following the rescue of the 33 miners trapped underground in August 2010, and he remains one of the most popular ministers in the government. If he did run, Golborne would likely be the favourite in a primary and could potentially stand a good chance against the opposition in the presidential race.


Municipal elections were held in Finland on October 28. There are are 9,674 seats in 304 municipalities. These elections come after legislative elections in April 2011 which saw a very strong result by Timo Soini’s right-populist and eurosceptic True Finns (PS) party, which won 19%. PS was excluded from government, but the new six-party coalition led by Jyrki Katainen from the centre-right/liberal KOK has taken a hardline in Eurozone negotiations, a clear result of PS’ growing power. Finland has gained a reputation as a “hardliner” in the Eurozone when it comes to Greece and Spain, it was the only country to demand collateral in exchange for helping to rescue Greece and Spain and it favours rigid requirements for the use of the new European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The SDP, the main junior partner in the six-party government, which had been hurt – like other parties – by PS in 2011, has now adopted a much tougher stance on the euro. Most Finns remain supportive of the EU and the euro, but there is rising frustration and dissatisfaction with European integration. Some feel that they are punished at home by austerity measures while rewarding profligate countries like Greece or Spain.

Finland’s economy remains stronger than other economies in the EU: it still has an AAA credit ranking, its deficit is much smaller than the EU’s 3% deficit limit and the country’s debt (around 45-50%) is better than a lot of other European countries. However, growth has slowed – almost to a halt in 2012 (+0.2%) – in part because of Nokia’s troubles; and it is set to remain rather low in coming years. Some have urged the government to reevaluate its austerity (spending cuts, tax increases) policy in the wake of slow growth, but the government appears unwilling to deviate from its path.

In the context of these municipal elections, the government – the KOK in particular – has been pushing a municipal reform which would greatly reduce the number of municipalities by merging a lot of them, arguing that such a reform is needed to create more efficient larger units. At the same time, however, the government parties have reiterated that there would be no forced mergers, but the threat is still lingering out there. The principle of municipal autonomy is dear to many voters, especially those in rural areas who fear that rural areas will be hollowed out by the government’s policies (which would impact local services such as healthcare). The opposition Centre Party (KESK), whose support comes predominantly from rural Finland which would probably stand to lose the most from any reform, has opposed the government’s municipal reform. However, a number of KOK mayors from affluent suburbs have opposed the mergers of their own municipalities. This indicates a small NIMBY phenomenon at work in municipal reform: politicians broadly agree that larger units would be more efficient, but few are keen on having their own municipalities be merged into a larger unit.

Turnout was 58.3%, down from around 61% in the 2008 local elections. The results table below compares the party’s results to their 2008 local election result and then their 2011 legislative election result.

KOK 21.9% (-1.6%, +1.5%) winning 1,735 seats (-286)
SDP 19.6% (-1.7%, +0.5%) winning 1,729 seats (-337)
KESK 18.7% (-1.4%, +2.9%) winning 3,077 seats (-440)
PS 12.3% (+7%, -6.7%) winning 1,195 seats (+752)
Green 8.5% (-0.4%, +1.3%) winning 323 seats (-47)
VAS 8% (-0.8%, -0.1%) winning 640 seats (-193)
SFP-RKP 4.7% (nc, +0.4%) winning 480 seats (-30)
KD 3.7% (-0.4%, -0.3%) winning 300 seats (-51)
Others 2.5% (-0.9%, +0.8%) winning 195 seats (-103)

The governing parties all won fairly good results in these elections, even if slightly down on the last local elections in 2008. The True Finns (PS), compared to the 2008 local elections, are the clear winners. While the PS is well on its way to establishing itself as a major player in Finnish politics in the years to come (if that was not already obvious), its result in these elections are a far cry from the 19% the party won in the 2011 legislative elections but also fall short of what polls had predicted. While there are grounds for calling PS the big “winners” of this election – which is what most foreign media outlets have done – it should certainly be noted that these results are quite underwhelming for the party. The party’s leader, Timo Soini, admitted that these results were not what he had hoped for though he said that he would keep fighting and that the Eurozone meltdown would eventually “prove him right.”

The country’s three traditional parties – KESK, SDP or KOK – which had all suffered (especially KESK) from PS bursting onto the scenes in 2011 – recovered some of their lost support. KESK itself reestablished itself as one of the three major parties in Finland, and it held its solid rural base. It is the largest party in around 200 of the 304 municipalities and it has – by far – the most local councillors (over 3,000), most of them from small rural municipalities. KESK’s traditional support and strength in most small towns in rural Finland likely hurt PS a bit – some potential voters (and maybe PS voters in 2011) preferring to back the traditionally dominant party in local elections.

The government’s tough (“hardline”) policies in the Eurozone, such as demanding collateral from Greece and Spain, might have successfully checked the rise of the populist eurosceptic right, for the time being. A series of controversial homophobic or racist statements by PS MPs and candidates has also been cited as a reason for PS’ relatively “weak” result this year. Again, while PS has established itself as a major player in Finnish politics, its momentum from 2011 might have been stopped by the government parties and the KESK (which has moved towards more Euro-critical stances since 2011) successfully regaining lost support.

The other, smaller, parties had fairly good results. The Greens suffered some loses but largely did fairly well, and their support did not collapse in Helsinki as it had been expected. The left (VAS) lost some ground, especially in their traditional working-class strongholds in northern Finland, but it retained over 600 councillors and did well in Helsinki. The Swedish party (SFP-RKP) managed to mobilize their base and retain their base in the predominantly Swedish municipalities on the western and southern coast. The Christian Democrats (KD) lost some ground, but they still have 300 seats.

Stability prevailed in most major cities. In Helsinki, KOK won 26.9% and 23 seats (down 3) while the Greens did not collapse as some had predicted: they remained second with 22.3% (down about 1%) and 19 seats (-2). The SDP won 15 seats (16.8%, losing 1 seat) while VAS and PS both made gains, winning 10.1% and 9.4% respectively. In Finland’s second-largest city, the affluent Helsinki suburb of Espoo, KOK won 36% against 16.7% for the Greens. The KOK and SDP tied with 18 seats apiece in Vantaa, a less affluent suburban town north of Helsinki.

Outside of metro Helsinki, the KOK was the largest party in Tampere and Turku while KESK remained on top in the northern city of Oulu. In Tampere, the KOK and SDP ended up nearly tied (17 and 16 seats respectively) with the Greens suffering some loses. In Turku, KOK won nearly 26% against a bit over 20% for the SDP, though both lost ground compared to 2008. In Oulu, KESK won 27% against roughly 20% for KOK and 14% for VAS.

You can explore results in all other municipalities on this website.

Sicily (Italy)

Regional elections were held in Sicily on October 28, 2012. Since 2001, the regional President is directly elected by popular vote. The Regional Assembly of Sicily is composed of 90 members, 80 of which are elected through the largest remainders method of PR in Sicily’s 9 provinces with a 5% thresholds. The other 10 members are elected on a “regional list” (a kind of general ticket/plurality at-large voting), the regional president gets one seat and the runner-up in the presidential ballot gets a seat – the other 8 are usually given to the winning presidential ticket as a sort of “majority bonus”; if the presidential ticket has already achieved a majority (as was the case in 2008 in Sicily), the eight seats are given to the runner-up’s presidential ticket.

Sicily is an autonomous region with a special status, granted immediately after the war in 1946 (other Italian regions without a special statute only received an elected legislature in 1970). This means that the Sicilian regional government keeps 100% of the taxes it levies, though it must fund healthcare, education and public infrastructure by itself (Sicily does get some additional central government funding to help it out). In a context of debt/economic crisis in Italy, Sicily has been pointed out as a bad example: its regional government is notoriously bloated and profligate; spending tons, paying generous pensions, employing (directly or indirectly) over 100,000 of the population’s 5 million inhabitants. Sicily’s economic situation is catastrophic, the region is teetering on the verge of default because of its huge debt. This article from the New York Times back in July is particularly interesting.

Sicily is a conservative stronghold in Italy. Since 1947, the centre-right has held the regional presidency for all but two short years (1998-2000, during a particularly divided and unstable regional legislature), and it national elections it has backed the right – most recently Silvio Berlusconi – by big margins. In the 2001 Italian elections, Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition had swept the entirety of the island’s 61 seats. In the 2008 regional elections, the right-wing candidate for president won 65% against barely 30% for the centre-left.

Sicily is a poor region, even today. Its unemployment rate, probably nearing 15% even on official records, is much higher than the national average. During the twentieth century, Sicily was a land of emigration – North Americans (and South Americans) can certainly attest to the huge number of Sicilians (and other southern Italians) who immigrated to the United States or Canada. Until the 1960s, the island’s economy was predominantly based around agriculture (fruits, wines) and structured around large estates led by distant bosses and employing throngs of poor landless labourers. After Italian unification at the end of the nineteenth century, the central government – allied with the local landowners – resisted moves towards any kind of agrarian reform. To defend themselves against rural banditry and their own landless labourers, the landowners employed local thugs to protect their property – the roots of the modern mafia.

The mafia grew in power and influence in Sicily, and they filed the vacuum between the people and the state. During Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, the mafia was chased into hiding by Mussolini’s regime, which saw the mafia as a threat to its power. However, when the Allies invaded Sicily (and Italy) in 1943, they allied with the mafia and allowed the mafia to return to a prominent role in the immediate post-war era. The dominant force of centre-right politics during the ‘First Republic’, Christian Democracy (DC), allied itself with the powerful Catholic Church, the conservative landowners and the mafia and became the dominant party in Sicilian politics. The alliance between the DC and the mafia created a clientelistic system of political patronage which has survived to this day in Sicily and elsewhere in southern Italy. The mafia ensured the success of the DC at the polls and checked the rise of the Communist Party (PCI), which in Sicily organized restless landless peasants by demanding wide-reaching social and agrarian reform. In return, the DC state made sure that the mafia’s business interests were protected and supported. The ‘First Republic’ and the close alliance between the DC and the Sicilian mafia collapsed with the Tangentopoli scandals and Mani Pulite investigations of the early 1990s in Italy.

While the PCI had some success in coastal municipalities with fishermen and in some rural communities with more radical landless peasants, Sicily has been a conservative stronghold and has consistently voted for right-wing parties. The roots of this conservatism comes from the lack of strong communities and communitarian feelings in southern Italy. Until 1946, southern Italy had been ruled almost exclusively by autocratic regimes who maintained formal feudal structures into the early nineteenth century and which subsequently based their power on support from the rural landowning elite. This history, compounded with the emergence of the mafia as a potent force in the 1850s, diluted any feelings of society. Southern Italy society is fairly atomized and individualistic, there is a strong “anti-cooperative” mindset which has kept the PCI and other left-wing parties traditionally weak. The relation of the average Sicilian or southern Italian with corruption and the mafia is different than in other places. To a certain extent, corruption is accepted as part of the political process.

In the ‘Second Republic’ era of Italian politics, which is coming to an end as we speak, Sicily has remained true to its conservative traditions. In 1994, Berlusconi’s new right-wing anti-establishment party, Forza Italia, found strong backing in Sicily and the island has since been one of the Berlusconian right’s strongholds. However, other centre-right players are important in Sicily. The old DC tradition has not entirely died out in Sicily, which has given strong results to the various centre-right successor parties of the DC – Casini’s UDC won over 9% of the vote in Sicily in the 2008 elections, well above its national result. Between 2001 and 2008, Sicily’s regional president was a right-wing Christian democrat, Salvatore Cuffaro, who is currently living in jail (for aiding the mafia). As the ‘First Republic’ faded away, the DC and its venal allies had seen their support shift to the south, where the networks of political patronage and clientelism had built a resilient electoral clientele.

There is a small regionalist movement in Sicily, though it is debatable to what extent these parties are actually fundamentally ‘regionalist’ or autonomist and to what extent they are merely empty kleptocratic shells founded by political bosses to further their political interests. Sicily’s post-war separatist movement, the MIS, has certainly died out. Nevertheless, Sicily’s regional president between 2008 until his resignation this year, Raffaele Lombardo, is the leader of one of these confusing regionalist parties – the Movement for Autonomies (MPA). In 2008, Lombardo and the MPA were allied with Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition (the PdL) but relations quickly turned sour. The MPA left the Berlusconi government in November 2010, prior to that point Lombardo had already pushed the PdL and the UDC out of his government (in 2009). The MPA is currently aligned with the UDC and Gianfranco Fini’s FLI, as part of the vague centrist ‘pole’ which seems increasingly stillborn.

Raffaele Lombardo’s resignation because of his suspected ties to the mafia and other corruption scandals earlier this year forced this snap regional election. Sicily, again, is a conservative region where the right has dominated regional politics since World War II. However, Italy’s political system – the ‘Second Republic’ – is going through a period of radical change, similar to that period between 1992 and 1994 which saw the old ‘First Republic’ system collapse. Silvio Berlusconi and his countless run-ins with the law meant that he had no credibility in the eyes of his European partners to deal with Italy’s huge debt problem which has brought the country to the verge of bankruptcy. He resigned in November and Italy has been governed by Mario Monti, a “non-party technocrat” since then, with the lukewarm support of the left and the right until general elections in April 2013. Monti’s government has implemented stringent austerity measures and made some steps towards necessary reforms.

Berlusconi has been in-and-out of politics since November 2011. A few weeks ago, he said that he would not run in the 2013 election (after saying that he would) but shortly thereafter he denounced Monti, Germany and the judges who sentenced him for tax fraud and indicated that he would remain the playing field and threatened to bring down the government. His party, the PdL, has been ripping itself apart. Centrists including Angelino Alfano, Berlusconi’s anointed successor, are eager to get Berlusconi out of the picture. But there are rumours that Berlusconi could stage a return, leading a new anti-establishment populist/eurosceptic party along the lines of Forza Italia in 1994.

The opposition Democratic Party (PD) is hardly in better condition. It has struggled in opposition because of lacklustre old leaders who lacked charisma or even political talent; but also because of its very disparate and heterogeneous nature as a big tent anti-Berlusconi coalition uniting former communists and former left-leaning Christian democrats. To the left, it has faced a re-energized post-communist coalition – the SEL (Left, Ecology and Freedom) led by the popular and charismatic Nichi Vendola, the regional president of Apulia. The PD and the SEL will hold a primary in late November to determine who will lead the coalition into the 2013 elections, and the race is very tight between the current PD leader, Pier Luigi Bersani (ex-PCI) and the young centrist mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi.

Since this summer, Italian politics have been shaken up by the 5-Star Movement (M5S), a populist movement led by popular comedian Beppe Grillo. A popular and powerful rabble-rousing orator, Grillo has lashed out at the “corrupt political establishment” and branded all parties and politicians as crooks. In the polls, the M5S has surged to nearly 20%, often placing second ahead of the PdL (the PD retaining a lead with an anemic 25% or so). The M5S’s roots are on the far-left, but it has de-emphasized traditional ideology in favour of populism and a broad anti-establishment rhetoric. The party has also positioned itself against austerity and has taken to fairly virulent eurosceptic/anti-EU rhetoric. In the process, it has certainly attracted the votes from many unhappy right-wingers, including supporters of the Lega Nord (LN) who feel disgusted with the LN after corruption scandals touching the old boss, Umberto Bossi.

The Sicilian regional election opposed some interesting characters. The PD’s presidential candidate was Rosario Crocetta, a MEP since 2009. Crocetta is openly gay and a former communist (he was a member of the hardline PRC until 2000 and the moderate PdCI until 2008), and became famous as a courageous anti-mafia crusader. He has faced numerous threats on his life from the mafia. The PD, however, formed an alliance with the centre-right UDC rather than Vendola’s SEL in Sicily.

The PdL candidate was Nello Musumeci, a former MEP. Musumeci is not a member of the PdL, his political roots lay with the old post-fascist National Alliance (AN) and with a small right-wing autonomist party in Sicily. The candidate of the incumbent right-wing autonomist administration was Gianfranco Micciché, who is the former leader of the local branch of PdL in Sicily who decided to break with the national party. Lombardo later broke with Micciché’s party, the Great South/Force of the South, as well.

The M5S candidate was Giancarlo Cancelleri. Beppe Grillo campaigned actively, notably by swimming across the straits from Calabria to Messina. The party claimed that it spent only

Turnout was only 47.41%, down from 66.68% in the 2008 regional elections. 47% is extremely low turnout for Italian standards, and likely indicates that the right (PdL primarily) have lost a lot of former suppporters to the ranks of abstention (in addition to parties such as the M5S). The low turnout must also reflect disgust with politics from many voters, who resent the tough austerity and have seen their share of corrupt politicians lining their pockets, politicians engaging in orgies and wild festivities and old party hacks with the charisma of wet pizzas. The results in Sicily were:


Rosario Crocetta (PD-UDC) 30.48%
Nello Musumeci (PdL) 25.73%
Giancarlo Cancellieri (M5S) 18.18%
Gianfranco Micciché (MPA-GS) 15.42%
Giovanna Marano (SEL-IdV) 6.06%
Others 4.13%

Regional Assembly

Crocetta Regional List 30.4% winning 39 seats (30 provincial, 9 regional)
PD 13.4% (-5.4%) winning 14 seats (-5)
UDC 10.8% (-1.7%) winning 11 seats (nc)
Crocetta List 6.2% (+6.2%) winning 5 seats (+5)

Musumeci Regional List 24.4% winning 21 seats (20 provincial, 1 regional)
PdL 12.9% (-20.6%) winning 12 seats (-23)
Popular Constructions (PID) 5.9% (+5.9%) winning 4 seats (+4)
Musumeci List 5.6% (+5.6%) winning 4 seats (+4)

M5S 14.9% (+13.2%) winning 15 seats (+15)

Micciché Regional List 20% winning 15 seats
PdS-MPA 9.5% (-4.3%) winning 10 seats (-5)
Great South 6.0% (+6%) winning 5 seats (+5)
FLI 4.4% (+4.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Ppa – Piazza Pulita 0.1% (+0.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Marano Regional List 6.6% winning 0 seats
IdV 3.5% (+1.7%) winning 0 seats (nc)
SEL-PRC+PdCI-Greens 3.1% (-1.8%) winning 0 seats (nc)

All others 3.5% winning 0 seats

Results of the regional list/presidential vote by commune (source: it.wikipedia)

The Sicilian election was quite something. Rosario Crocetta’s victory means that conservative Sicily will have a gay communist (who hates the mafia) as President, which is something. On a more serious basis, Crocetta’s victory is an historic victory for the left in Sicily, which has practically never governed the island’s regional government since it was created in 1947. However, Crocetta’s victory, while still remarkable, is more a reflection of the utter disarray and chaos of the Sicilian – and Italian – right rather than the phenomenal success of the left. Crocetta’s vote share, 30.5%, is roughly on par with the 30.4% won by the PD’s Anna Finocchiaro in the 2008 election, an election which had been a total disaster for the Sicilian left (its candidate had won 41.6% in the 2006 regional election). This very underwhelming and anemic result for both the centre-left coalition and the PD in particular (it won only 13% on the party-list vote, down from an already awful 18.8% in 2008) reflects the state of the Italian left: a favourite to win the next election, but only because the right is sinking faster than the Titanic hitting the iceberg. The PD’s lackluster job in opposition, its uncharismatic leaders and its own internal divisions have meant that it has not benefited much from Berlusconi’s departure and the subsequent disintegration of the once-mighty Italian right.It has been asked by some observers if the victory of a PD-UDC rather than a PD-SEL coalition in these elections will have an impact on the direction of the PD, which is currently committed to an alliance with Vendola’s SEL rather than the UDC. It remains to be seen, but it must be noted that the UDC and the PD have practiced different alliance strategies from region to region, notably in the 2010 regional elections. In some places, the UDC allies with the right, in others it goes its own way and in other regions it allies with the PD. The PD, in some places, goes with the left and SEL but in other places it goes without SEL.

The right, particularly the PdL, was the clear loser of this election. It entered the race divided, and the division of the vote was one of the factors which allowed the left to score an historic victory which is a very, very embarrassing defeat for the right. Together, the two candidates won 41.15% – which would still be terrible for the right which had won all of 65% (!) in the 2008 regional election. The PdL suffered a huge defeat, winning only 13% on the party-list vote, which is down nearly 21 points on what it had won on the 2008 list-vote. This result reflects the collapse of Berlusconi’s once-mighty party as Berlusconi’s successive shenanigans (economic crisis/near default, style of governance, series of corruption scandal, underage sex) finally took their toll on the PdL, beginning in 2011 and accelerating to a point of no-return over the past year. The PdL’s disastrous result in Sicily probably does not help out Angelino Alfano, who is from Sicily, in these PdL primaries scheduled for December.

The M5S and Beppe Grillo, despite a shoestring campaign and a little-known candidate, were the major winners in Sicily. The M5S topped the poll in a very divided party-list vote and its candidate won third place with a very strong 18.2% (it seems like it placed first in the city of Palermo). Grillo’s party, regardless of whether one loves them or hates them, is definitely here to stay. In Sicily, they proved that their support is, for the moment, fairly deep and solid; showing up even in a regional election with very low turnout. Crocetta lacks a majority in the new Regional Assembly, which will make governing difficult for him. The M5S has refused to work with the new majority, in keeping with Grillo branding all exisiting parties as corrupt entities which should be swept away.

Italy’s economic/debt crisis has proven to be the trigger to the collapse of the ‘Second Republic’ party system as we know it. This exciting (or depressing, your choice!) era in Italian politics is similar to the previous political revolution which brought down the First Republic between 1992 and 1994: the Tangentopoli. Old parties are discredited and unappealing, the right and the left are both trying to totally revinvent themselves, old politicians are all seen in a very negative light and new parties led by inflammatory populists and powerful orators are bursting onto the scene. The M5S is following in the footsteps of Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord in the early 90s and Silvio Berlusconi himself in 1994. It is feeding off the carcasses of the old parties, and presenting itself as a brand-new, anti-establishment/anti-corruption party which promises a radical break with the old system of Italian politics. 2013 may prove to be, nineteen years after Berlusconi’s first big victory in 1994, the birthdate of a ‘Third Republic’ in Italy.

Happy U.S. election day (and night) to all readers!

Brazil 2012

The first round of municipal elections were held in Brazil on October 7, 2012 with a runoff to be held on October 28, 2012. Mayors, deputy mayors and local councillors in all 5,568 municipalities in Brazil. Runoffs are held in direct mayoral elections where no candidate has won 50%+1 of the votes, but runoffs are only held in municipalities with over 200,000 voters. Municipal city councils (câmaras municipais) are elected through an open list system similar to that use for elections to the federal Chamber of Deputies.

Municipal elections in Brazil are the country’s “midterm elections”, they are the only elections held in between presidential elections and they are held halfway in the President’s four-year term. While on the surface the sheer amount of parties, contradictory coalitions from city to city and the vast array of personalities make the water fairly murky, and it is true that these elections are very personalized and that local political machines play a large role. However, these “midterm” local elections are nonetheless marked by complex political calculations which are tied to national and state politics. Their results have major repercussions on national and state politics, for example playing a role in boosting (or weakening) the standings of potential presidential candidates and informing the ever changing game of Brazilian coalition politics at the federal level.

It has been two years since Dilma Rousseff was elected President in 2010, riding the popularity of her predecessor and mentor, Lula. A year and nine months down the road, Dilma maintains very strong approval ratings (with less than 10% judging her performance to be downright bad, and nearly 60% judging it to be excellent or good). Economic growth remains fairly strong, but slowed down to 2.7% in 2011 and is projected to grow by only 1.5% this year. Slower economic growth has forced the government to be surprisingly defiant to the demands of federal government employees, including teachers and federal police, who had been on strike since earlier this year demanding higher salary increases (they were granted an inflation-only offer of 15.8% over three years). This is surprising coming from a party, the PT, whose roots lay in the unions, but Dilma has continued to move the PT away from its historical socialist roots towards third-way politics.

She has favoured private sector growth and promised to reduce the high cost of doing business in Brazil, for example by extending payroll-tax cuts to more industries or cutting the very high electricity tariffs in the country. While  Dilma and the PT remain instinctively hostile to privatization, she has made it clear that she supports more private investment in infrastructure. The government has already auctioned off contracts to run three airports, and it plans to auction road and railway concessions to the private sector to invite investors to build, upgrade and operate toll roads and railways.

The entire Brazilian political class has been rocked by some major corruption cases in recent months, most significantly the big Cachoeira scandal (Carlinhos Cachoeira is a businessman behind a big gambling racket, currently investigated for money laundering and running an illegal gambling network), which has implicated a number of senators, federal deputies and two governors. The impact of the Cachoeira scandal has been felt across party lines, but it has mainly hurt the opposition: a prominent opposition senator, Demóstenes Torres (DEM-GO), is one of the major politicians cited in the case, as is the embattled PSDB governor of Goiás, Marconi Perillo.

However, corruption cases have not left the government unscathed. Dilma’s cabinet has had lots of turnover in recent months, as she was forced to fire one cabinet minister after another as they got knee-deep into various cases of corruption, graft, influence-peddling, bribery or misuse of public funds. Some of those cabinet ministers, such as her former Chief of Staff Antonio Palocci (PT-SP), had been close allies of her predecessor and mentor, Lula. Others had been members of her venal allies, who have discovered the political (and financial) value of getting their own ministries. With various corruption cases, she lost her transportation minister Alfredo Nascimento (PR-AM), the agriculture minister Wagner Rossi (PMDB-SP), tourism minister Pedro Novais (PMDB-MA), sports minister Orlando Silva (PCdoB-BA), labour minister Carlos Lupi (PDT-RJ) and cities minister Mário Negromonte (PP-BA). Dilma’s tough stance against corrupt ministers in her entourage has allowed her to score points with public opinion, and it has allowed her to slowly but surely lay her personal mark on the government and differentiate it from Lula.

However, the PT is likely worried about what effects the current Supreme Court case surrounding the old mensalão scandal from 2005 (when the PT bribed congressional partners for their votes) could have on them. It apparently tried to push back the case until after the local elections; it came out that Lula had tried to blackmail a judge – Gilmar Mendes – by threatening to reveal Mendes’ links to the Cachoeira scheme. Just a few days ago, the court found Lula’s former Chief of Staff José Dirceu and former PT president José Genoino guilty on counts of bribery in the mensalão, though their sentences will not come down until later. This landmark case, among others, will at least contribute to breaking the culture of impunity which has permeated the Brazilian political elite for so long. It is unlikely to hurt or help any particular party; no major Brazilian party has a clean record, and voters recognize this.

Brazilian party and coalition politics is very complex business. Party loyalty is very weak, what matters are personalities and their individual ambitions. Nonetheless, even if most parties are venal self-interested actors with no ideologies, a few parties are major players in their own right. The Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB), the ultimate big tent party which seeks only to maximize its power, is a key ally of the Dilma government but some local and state bigwigs are showing their discontent with the federal government and their coalition with the PT. Another smaller venal ally of the government, the Republic Party (PR) broke away from the government shortly after Nascimento was dumped and joined the ranks of the opposition.

The Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), led by the very popular and ambitious governor of Pernambuco Eduardo Campos, is quite tired of being the second fiddle to the PT and is slowly drifting away from the PT and turning into more of a traditional big tent, ideologically diverse or undefined party. Eduardo Campos is a potential candidate for President in 2014 or 2018.

The opposition is also being moved around. The traditional party of the centre-right, the PSDB, risks losing even more feathers as it continues to be unable to renew itself and move past its old leadership disputes. However, its main ally, the Democrats (the former PFL, the remnants of the conservative pork-barreling party of the old military dictatorship), are collapsing even more rapidly. The big news in Brazilian politics in 2011 was the maverick DEM mayor of São Paulo, Gilberto Kassab, splitting off to form his own party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), which positions itself slightly to the left of the DEMs, closer to the centre and to the Dilma government (while not being a ‘government party’). The PSD has attracted a good number of defectors from the DEMs (but also other parties) and it has grown to 47 federal deputies, much more than the DEMs (left with 28). These defections have left the Democrats virtually on life support.

Municipal elections

The table below gives the number of mayors elected by party in the first round, compared to the 2008 municipal elections (first round); as well as the number of councillors.

PMDB 1,018 mayors (-175) and 7,963 councillors (-512)
PSDB 692 mayors (-95) and 5,255 councillors (-641)
PT 627 mayors (+77) and 5,181 councillors (+1,013)
PSD 495 mayors (+495) and 4,662 councillors (+4,662)
PP 466 mayors (-83) and 4,932 councillors (-197)
PSB 434 mayors (+126) and 3,555 councillors (+599)
PDT 309 mayors (-42) and 3,660 councillors (+135)
PTB 295 mayors (-115) and 3,571 councillors (-363)
DEM 276 mayors (-219) and 3,272 councillors (-1,529)
PR 273 mayors (-111) and 3,190 councillors (-344)
PPS 120 mayors (-9) and 1,861 councillors (-298)
PV 96 mayors (+21) and 1,584 councillors (+347)
PSC 83 mayors (+26) and 1,468 councillors (+322)
PRB 77 mayors (+23) and 1,204 councillors (+423)
PCdoB 53 mayors (+12) and 976 councillors (+364)
PMN 42 mayors (+1) and 605 councillors (+15)
PTdoB 26 mayors (+18) and 534 councillors (+205)
PRP 24 mayors (+6) and 581 councillors (+177)
PSL 23 mayors (+8) and 761 councillors (+241)
PTC 18 mayors (+5) and 484 councillors (+153)
PHS 17 mayors (+4) and 544 councillors (+193)
PRTB 16 mayors (+5) and 418 councillors (+157)
PPL 12 mayors (+12) and 176 councillors (+176)
PTN 12 mayors (-4) and 429 councillors (+29)
PSDC 9 mayors (+1) and 446 councillors (+95)
PSOL/PCB/PSTU 1 mayor (+1) and 56 councillors (+16) incl. 49 PSOL, 5 PCB, 2 PSTU
Others 240 mayors (-2)

The results did not indicate any major changes, besides a strengthening of the PT and the success of both the PSD and the PSB. The PT’s gains seem heaviest in small and medium-sized towns, with the clear influence of some strong state governments (notably Bahia) helping the PT to create a strong base at the municipal level. The results of the other parties reveal the importance of state governments as well; the PSD was rather strong in Santa Catarina because of governor Raimundo Colombo (former DEM, now PSD), the PSDB performed well in its historical base of São Paulo but also Minas Gerais, Paraná or Pará where they control the governorship and the PSB clearly dominates in Pernambuco and is in a strong position in the Northeast as a whole (notably Piauí, where it now controls the state government).

The Democrats were obliterated, the creation of the PSD sorely hurt them in Santa Catarina, Bahia but also Minas Gerais and São Paulo. At it currently stands, the DEMs are basically on life support and their continued existence as an independent political party is called into question. Would they be better off merging with the PSDB to create larger centre-right opposition party?

The PMDB, by and large, remained predominant in a lot of towns throughout the country and by coalitions and alliances it will probably partake in the governance of over half – if not more – of Brazilian municipalities. The loss of state government in Paraná and its disaffiliation with the PT machine in Bahia resulted in significant loses for the party in those states, but it made major gains in São Paulo.

São Paulo

São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and economic capital, is the big prize in all municipal elections – especially this year. Being mayor of São Paulo has often been a trampoline to seek higher office, such as the state’s governorship or the presidency. Politically, as a predominantly white and middle-class business city, São Paulo has leaned to the right – centre-right opposition candidate José Serra won 54% in São Paulo in the 2010 runoff against Dilma.

The incumbent mayor of São Paulo since 2006 is Gilberto Kassab (PSD, ex-DEM). Kassab is retiring this year, but there are rumours that he is eyeing a run for governor in 2014 – even though governor Alckmin (PSDB) is quite popular.

The first mayor directly elected after the restoration of direct elections and multiparty democracy was none other than former President Jânio Quadros (who served as president a few months in 1961 before suddenly resigning, probably on a drunken fit), a literally insane populist clown figure. In that 1985 election, Quadros defeated Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a prominent academic who would later become President, after a campaign during which Quadros described FHC as a “pot-smoking atheist” and alleged that Cardoso would force the inclusion of marijuana into school lunches.

Following Quadros’ uneventful term, he was succeeded by Luiza Erudina of the PT – the PT had been founded in the city’s industrial hinterland (the ABC cities). She was succeeded in 1992 by former military-era appointed mayor and later governor Paulo Maluf, a corrupt conservative populist and one of Brazil’s most controversial political figures (he is currently on Interpol’s wanted list, for money-laundering and other accusations in the US). His right-hand man Celso Pitta replaced him in 1996. Seeking to return to office in 2000, Maluf was defeated by the PT’s Marta Suplicy in the runoff with over 58% for Suplicy. However, she was defeated in her reelection bid by PSDB candidate José Serra (the 2002 PSDB presidential candidate and former health minister), who won 55% in the runoff. Serra stepped down in 2006 in order to run for governor that same year, he was succeeded by his deputy mayor, Gilberto Kassab, who won a full term in his own right in 2008 with over 60% of the vote. This year, Kassab leaves office with mediocre approval ratings.

The PSDB candidate this year was José Serra – former mayor, governor and unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2002 and 2010. Serra had originally said that he would not run, but a few months later he backtracked on his statement and won a PSDB primary against two rivals, including an ally of the state governor, Geraldo Alckmin. Serra would like to run for president for a third time in 2014, but few in his party are keen on that terrible idea, first and foremost governor Alckmin and Senator Aécio Neves, the current PSDB favourite for 2014. Serra, however, can still count on the strong backing of his friend and ally Kassab, and his party (the PSD).

The PT has a long history in the state and city of São Paulo but has had limited success at both the state and municipal level in recent years. The field of potential PT candidates included former mayor and current senator Marta Suplicy, her ex-husband senator Eduardo Suplicy, science minister Aloizio Mercadante and education minister Fernando Haddad.

Since 2011, former President Lula has become the de facto leader of the party and its top power broker. While there have been no public disagreements between Lula and his protégé, Dilma, some have wondered if Lula could run for president again in 2014. In São Paulo, fully utilizing his power at the unofficial party boss, Lula moved to sideline Marta Suplicy and others in favour of education minister Fernando Haddad, who he felt could have a stronger appeal to middle-class voters (unlike Suplicy, whose base lies with poorer voters in the city’s outskirts). Haddad was very much promoted as Lula’s candidate, and Dilma publicly campaigned for him only very late in the campaign.

Haddad’s candidacy ran into problems when Interpol Most Wanted (and former mayor) Paulo Maluf and his party (the PP) endorsed Haddad. This embarrassing alliance with the arch-corrupt party boss led Haddad’s original ‘running mate’, former mayor Luiza Erudina (now affiliated with the PSB) to step down.

However, the frontrunner during a good part of the campaign – and especially for the final stretch – was Celso Russomano, a former federal deputy and popular consumers advocate. Russomano is now a member of the small Brazilian Republican Party (PRB), a non-ideological party closely linked to the evangelical United Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG).

Russomano ran a populist campaign, especially popular with poorer, traditionally petista voters but also middle-class voters tired of the PSDB/PT back and forths in the city. He took the lead from Serra in late August and led by a solid margin until the end of September, when an onslaught from Serra and Haddad brought him back down. The last polls showed a three way tie. Serra’s candidacy was dogged by how he had ended his first stint as mayor: after being elected by saying that he would serve out the full four years, he quit 15 months in to run for governor. There is that underlying ‘fear’ that he might run for something else if he won.

Other candidates included Gabriel Chalita (PMDB), an ally of governor Alckmin and a close Serra ally, Soninha (PPS), who ran a social liberal campaign.

José Serra (PSDB) 30.75%
Fernando Haddad (PT) 28.98%
Celso Russomano (PRB) 21.6%
Gabriel Chalita (PMDB) 13.6%
Soninha (PPS) 2.65%
Others 2.41%

A map of the results is available here. The results of the first round were very surprising, with Serra and Haddad both doing well (especially Haddad) and qualifying for the runoff while Russomano placed a paltry distant third with only 22%. There was a really last minute shift away from Russomano, due to a variety of factors including revelation of personal scandals and questions about his links to the UCKG. The last polls had shown that he had been shedding support from traditionally petista lower-income voters but also middle-class voters, the bleeding continued into election day. The map shows that Russomano got the bulk of his support in the lower-income/working-class peripheral neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, where the PT is strongest, though he did do fairly well in some more middle-class areas in the north of the city where the PT is weaker.

Fernando Haddad’s remarkable result is a success for his top backer, Lula. He started out running at 3% in the polls (like Dilma in 2009/early 2010) but has ended up qualifying for the runoff. In the runoff, furthermore, he is the favourite. Two polls have already shown him up by 10 over Serra, and he has the backing of Gabriel Chalita (even if the SP PMDB is right-wing, Chalita dislikes Serra) and will probably win most of Russomano’s voters. Serra has high negative ratings, and he is a poor candidate. He is more and more a tired politician who doesn’t seem to understand when to stop. He will try to use the mensalão scandal and some anti-homophobia school kit against Haddad, but for the moment it looks as if the PT could win an historic victory in the city.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio, Brazil’s other big city and host of the 2016 Olympics, did not have a very contested race this year. In 2008, the PMDB’s Eduardo Paes had won a very narrow victory against the Green Party’s Fernando Gabeira, replacing term-limited DEM incumbent Cesar Maia (who served as mayor between 1993 and 1997 and 2001 and 2009). Paes has been a very popular mayor, in part due to the 2016 Olympics and 2014 FIFA World Cup, which has boosted investment and economic development in the city. He ran for reelection, benefiting from the backing of the PT. His two main opponents were state deputy Marcelo Freixo (PSOL), a prominent opponent of the drug cartels and federal deputy Rodrigo Maia (DEM), the son of Cesar Maia (who failed to win a senate seat in 2010 and was running for city council this year).

Eduardo Paes (PMDB) 64.6%
Marcelo Freixo (PSOL) 28.15%
Rodrigo Maia (DEM) 2.94%
Otavio Leite (PSDB) 2.47%
Others 1.84%

A map of the results is available here. Paes won reelection by the first round in a landslide, and while Freixo did relatively decently, Rodrigo Maia (and what he represented as the scion of a prominent local political dynasty) was utterly humiliated. The map is fairly interesting, especially in relation to Marcelo Freixo’s support. Freixo is a state deputy for the small far-left PSOL, formed by PT dissidents during Lula’s first term, and he has built his political career on a courageous crusade against the powerful drug cartels which remain powerful in many favelas in the city. Ironically, however, Freixo received his strongest support in the city’s upper middle-class coastal and central neighborhoods (Botafogo but also the emblematic Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Gávea), usually right-leaning areas. His crusade against the drug cartels has made him the favourite of a good part of the city’s upper middle-classes, but did poorly in the lower-income northern neighborhoods.

Other Cities

In Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais), the incumbent PSB mayor Márcio Lacerda, elected in 2008 with left-wing support, was reelected this year with right-wing support (the PSDB, DEMs and PSD notably). He won 52.69% against 40.8% for former cabinet minister Patrus Ananias (PT). Lacerda has always been a close ally of PSDB senator Aécio Neves, the former governor (until 2010) and likely presidential candidate in 2014. Hence, Lacerda’s victory is a major boost for Aécio’s presidential ambitions but is also good news for another potential 2014 candidate, governor Eduardo Campos (PSB-PE).

In Salvador (Bahia), the fight to replace term-limited unpopular incumbent João Henrique (PP) is going to be very close between federal deputy ACM Neto (DEM) and Nelson Pelegrino (PT). ACM Neto, who is the grandson of the late Antonio Carlos Magalhães, a prominent conservative baron in Bahia, won 40.17% against 39.73% for Pelegrino. Former mayor Mário Kertész (PMDB) won 9.43% and Márcio Marinho (PRB) took 6.51%, and both candidates have endorsed Pelegrino (although some sections of the PMDB are backing ACM Neto). These results are fairly mediocre, in my eyes, for the PT, but its support has likely been hurt by the state government’s (led by PT governor Jaques Wagner) fight against two public sector strikes. The runoff will be closely fought, but Pelegrino probably has a tiny edge.

In Recife (Pernambuco), incumbent mayor João da Costa (PT) was retiring (pressured into doing so), leaving the field wide open for the very popular state governor, Eduardo Campos (PSB) to anoint his candidate. He did so, in the form of little-known Geraldo Júlio (PSB, allied, amusingly, with the PMDB). Geraldo Júlio started out with 5% in July, but the support from the governor and the state government propelled him into the lead, ahead of Senator Humberto Costa (PT) and former governor Mendonça Filho (DEM). Júlio won 51.15%, against 27.65% for Daniel Coelho (PSDB) ans 17.43% for Humberto Costa (PT). In yet another blow to the influence of the formerly dominant Democrats/PFL, Mendonça Filho took only 2.25% of the vote. Júlio’s landslide is a major victory for Campos, an ambitious politician with his eyes on the presidency in 2014 or 2018.

Curitiba (Paraná) was quite interesting, and surprising. Mayor Beto Richa (PSDB) stepped down in 2010 to run for governor (he won), leaving Luciano Ducci (PSB – the local PSB is right-wing) in the mayor’s chair. Ducci, backed by the centre-right, was running for reelection, and seemed in a decent position to at least qualify for the second round. However, with 26.77%, he placed only a close third in the first round and is out of the runoff. The runoff will oppose Ratinho Jr. (PSC), the son of a popular talk show host and TV personality, who took 34.09% on a populist independent platform, and Gustavo Fruet (PDT), backed by the PT (Fruet had run for senate for the PSDB in 2010 but lost narrowly) who took 27.22%. Ratinho Jr is probably the favourite in the runoff. Mayor Ducci’s defeat is a major blow for the state governor, Beto Richa, who is nonetheless fairly popular, and Eduardo Campos.

In Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul), incumbent mayor José Fortunati (PDT, centre-right) won reelection with 65.22% against 17.76% for federal deputy Manuela d’Ávila (PCdoB) and 9.64% for Adão Villaverde (PT). Fortunati showed some signs of vulnerability earlier on, but through a shrewd campaign he strengthened his appeal to a large number of voters. Manuela, a prominent federal deputy and former student leader, was the de facto candidate of the left, given that Villaverde got only limited support from the national PT.

In Manaus (Amazonas), where mayor Amazonino Mendes (PDT) is retiring, the leader coming out of the first round is former senator Arthur Virgílio Neto (PSDB), who was defeated for reelection to the Senate in 2010. Surprisingly, he came out far ahead of the pack in the first round with 40.55% against 19.95% for Senator Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB), backed by the PT and the PMDB. Henrique Oliveira (PR) placed third with 16.46%, while former mayor Serafim Corrêa (PSB) won 11.64%.  Sabino Castelo Branco (PTB), a federal deputy and popular TV personality, won 7.3%. Grazziotin having been expected to have been stronger in the first round, the value of runoff polls which showed her narrowly ahead of Arthur Neto seem a bit off. However, it seems as if Dilma will campaign for her and that the PT is putting some attention into this race.

In Fortaleza (Ceará), incumbent mayor Luizianne Lins (PT) is term-limited. After the first round, Elmano de Freitas (PT), backed by the outgoing mayor, has 25.44% against 23.32% for the president of the state legislature, Roberto Cláudio (PSB), a close ally of governor Cid Gomes (PSB) and his brother Ciro Gomes (PSB). Heitor Ferrer (PDT), a state deputy, won 20.97% and former federal deputy Moroni Torgan (DEM) took a paltry 13.75%. The PSOL candidate somehow won 11.84%.

In Belém (Pará), incumbent mayor Duciomar Costa (PTB) is term-limited. This is another city where the runoff remains up in the air, after a close first round. Popular state deputy and former mayor Edmilson Rodrigues (PSOL) won 32.58% but federal deputy Zenaldo Countinho (PSDB) was close on his heels with 30.67% after receiving a late endorsement from governor Simão Jatene (PSDB). Jefferson Lima (PP), a radio personality, took 12.89% and federal deputy José Priante (PMDB) won 8.79%. The PT, whose candidate won 3.06%, is backing Edmilson. The PSOL, pushed by the candidacy of former senator Marinor Brito, also managed 4 seats on city council.

In Cuiabá (Mato Grosso), the very unpopular incumbent Chico Galindo (PTB) is retiring. Mauro Mendes (PSB), backed by “soy king” senator Blairo Maggi (PR) and senator Pedro Tasques (PDT), took 43.96% against 42.27% for Lúdio (PT), backed by the incumbent PMDB governor. The PSOL won 5.42% and the PSDB candidate won 4.59%. This race looks like a tossup, but a PSB victory here would be another strong result for the party.

Goiânia (Goiás) mayor Paulo Garcia (PT), in office since 2010, won a first term outright with 57.68% in the first round. Jovair Arantes (PTB), backed by the PSDB, took 14.25%. Ex-senator Demóstenes Torres (DEM-GO), before getting knee deep into the Cachoeira scandal, had indicated his intention to run for mayor here.

In Natal (Rio Grande do Norte), incumbent mayor Micarla de Sousa (PV) is extremely unpopular and is not running for reelection. The favourite is former mayor Carlos Eduardo Alves (PDT), who served right before Micarla (and Micarla was his deputy mayor), who took 40.42% in the first round. Carlos Eduardo is the nephew of former mayor, governor, senator and current cabinet minister Garibaldi Alves Filho (PMDB) and the nephew of former governor Aluísio Alves; his running mate is Wilma de Faria (PSB), a former governor and mayor. The clan was disunited, because PMDB’s house leader Henrique Eduardo Alves backed Hermano Moraes (PMDB), who placed second with 23.01%. Fernando Mineiro, a longtime PT activist, took 22.63% and federal deputy Rogério Marinho (PSDB) won 10.16%.

Teresina (Piauí) mayor Elmano Férrer (PTB), backed the PMDB, placed second in the first round with 33.14% against 38.77% for former mayor and state deputy Firmino Filho (PSDB). Former governor and incumbent senator Wellington Dias (PT) placed third with 14.18%, Beto Rego (PSB) won 10.69%.

The mayor of São Luis (Maranhão), João Castelo (PSDB), is in a tough race for a second term. With 30.60%, he trails Edivaldo Holanda Jr. (PTC) who won 36.44%. State deputy Eliziane Gama (PPS) won 13.81% while vice-governor Washington Oliveira (PT), the candidate of the Sarney clan, won only 11.02%.

In Campinas (São Paulo), Jonas Donizette (PSB, ex-PSDB), backed by the PSDB and the DEMs, is the big favourite in the state’s third largest city. He took 47.6% in the first round. The municipality has been rocked by scandals since 2011, which forced the PDT mayor and then his PT deputy to resign and left the president of the chamber, Pedro Serafim (PDT) in charge. The incumbent mayor, Pedro Serafim, was a distant third with 18.47% while economics prof Marcio Pochmann (PT) won 28.56%. In Ribeirão Preto (São Paulo), meanwhile, incumbent centrist mayor Dárcy Vera (PSD), supported by the PMDB and former cabinet minister Wagner Rossi (PMDB), is the favourite after winning 46.34% in the first round. The PSDB’s Darcy Nogueira took 30.38% while the PT, hurt by the stench of corruption surrounding former mayor Antonio Palocci won only 15.o6%. The PSD also has a strong chance in Florianópolis (Santa Catarina) where its candidate, state deputy César Souza Jr., backed by governor Raimundo Colombo (PSD) but also the PSDB and PSB, won 31.68% against 27.37% for Gean Loureiro (PMDB), the candidate backed by senator and former governor Luiz Henrique da Silveira (PMDB). The PCdoB-PT candidate won 25.03%, the PSOL took 14.42%. Senator Luiz Henrique da Silveira would also like to reconquer the state’s largest city, Joinville, the PMDB candidate placed second with 35.52% against 41.42% for the PSD. 

The PT and PSDB are also facing off directly in runoffs in Guarulhos (SP) where the PT is the big favourite and Rio Branco (Acre) where 2010 gubernatorial candidate Tião Bocalom (PSDB) is not far behind Marcus Alexandre (PT) with 43.9% against 48.3% for the petista backed by the Viana siblings (the PT governor and senator from the state).

The results of the second round will be closely followed in a lot of these cities and a few others (for more results, O Globo has them in a text format and Veja has a map) because of the regional and national implications they will carry for the main parties, their ambitious leaders and for the state of Brazil’s notoriously complex and unstable coalitions.

After the first round, two likely 2014 presidential candidates are strengthened. In Minas Gerais, Senator Aécio Neves got his candidate reelected in Belo Horizonte and the PSDB held up fairly well in his state, which would be a key swing state if Aécio is the tucano candidate. Governor Eduardo Campos (PSB-PE) was successful, especially with the phenomenal landslide for his candidate in Recife, and with his party’s strong showing in the whole of the Northeast. For now, the PSB governor of Pernambuco has reiterated that his party remains a supporter of Dilma’s government (where it has cabinet positions) and that it is too early to talk about 2014. But this election showed that the division between the PT and PSB, traditional partners for over 20 years, has grown quite deep as the PT pursues alliances for allegedly opportunistic and selfish reasons with other parties (firstly the PMDB) while the PSB is eager to mark its independence from the PT.

Eduardo Campos’ candidacy is still not a certainty, as there is a chance he might prefer to wait until 2018 where there is a chance that he could be endorsed by the PT. After all, Dilma is not dead in the water – far from it – she has strong approvals and it is unlikely that Lula would directly challenge her for the PT nomination (though if he did, he would be the favourite). Her policies have carried a particularly strong appeal to middle-classes which have traditionally been cooler towards the PT, and it is not clear if discontent on her left would express itself electorally. However, 2018 could be too late for Campos and he might see 2014 as an opportunity to build up his name and image ahead of a winning run in 2018, similar to what Ciro Gomes had tried to do in 1998 and 2002. On top of that, there are now rumours of a sort of “super-ticket” between Campos and Aécio for 2014, an idea which has been endorsed by FHC.

I hope that this post provided some interesting information and details about Brazil’s complex local politics to those interested.

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.

An electoral revolution: the political evolution of Brazil’s Nordeste

Changes in a region’s voting patterns and overall political mood are often spread out over a long period of time, rarely happening overnight in one election. Possibly, the electoral evolution of the Northeast Region, or Nordeste, of Brazil, is an exception. The traditional image of the Northeast being a backwards region dominated by powerful landlords who oppressed a large and poor peasantry has changed considerably, though that, of course, did not come overnight. The change in voting patterns, however, have changed rather drastically in a short period of time.

The Nordeste was the centre of Portuguese Brazil’s colonial economy and was the colony’s wealthiest region – by far- until at least the mid-nineteenth century. Helped by a favourable location and climate, the (coastal) Nordeste’s economy grew, lived and prospered thanks to sugar cane. The need for manual labour on huge sugar plantations especially after the quasi-extermination of the Tupi natives (who were also inadequate for the task) led to the largest slave trade in the western hemisphere. Most African slaves sent to work in the Americas were sent to Brazil, a fact which contributes to the Nordeste’s cultural and racial diversity. As coffee gradually replaced sugar as Brazil’s main export, the Nordeste suffered a quasi-constant decline and degeneration which has, over time, transformed a region which was once the country’s wealthiest into the country’s poorest.

To understand the region’s politics and societal structure, one must first understand the vegetation and precipitation patterns of the region. Basically, the Northeast is divided into three geographical regions (there are actually four, but nobody cares about the fourth). The first is the zona da mata, a wet and green region which forms a long, thin and narrow strip along the Atlantic coastline. This region actually used to be covered by thick rainforest similar to the Amazon, though it was all wiped out by the Portuguese who established sugar cane plantations all along the coast. Sugar cane was and is produced on large estates called engenhos, who were led by wealthy sugar barons who maintained tremendous political influence. After the green zona da mata, another – inland this time – long and thin strip is formed by the agreste, a kind of transitional region between the wet green coastline and the dry dusty interior. Already in the agreste, rainfall is much scarcer and the landscape is much less green. Small agriculture is dominant here. Further inland lies the vast, semi-arid and dustier sertão, the most well-known of the three geographical regions. Prone to long droughts, the sertão is generally unfertile and most agriculture is based around cattle herding. Most herding used to be done on huge estates, the well-known latifundios, led by landowners who dominated a large, poor peasantry. Drought, poverty and lack of income encouraged a massive migration from the dirt poor sertão to major cities of southeastern Brazil.

Slavery and its legacy, as well as a tradition of hegemonic control, unsurprisingly engendered poverty, oppression and an oligarchic paternalist society. Wielding much political and economic power, oligarchs and landowners controlled the economic and political life of their turf, a system which became known in Brazil (and elsewhere) as coronelismo, whereby a local oligarch (a ‘colonel’) controlled a tightly regimented society and delivered their votes en masse to the highest bidder. This power, which came as a result of their wealth and dynastic status, conferred them with considerable power. Their support for the republic in 1889 played a crucial role in its establishment and survival. The system of coronelismo was quasi-universal in Brazil during the café com leite Republic (1889-1930) and continued unfettered in rural areas throughout the country until the 1980s (in some cases, to this day). However, even in the Northeast, the influence and field of action of these bosses was quickly confined to rural areas (where a great majority of the population still lived) while wealthier urban areas became holdouts of organized urban labour or a progressive educated elite. Recife, after all, was a stronghold of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) which polled over 15% in Pernambuco in 1945 and 1947 (industrialist backing of the PCB also explains that in parts).

It is important to note some important things about these ‘colonels’, oligarchs and political bosses which literature on Brazilian history refer to. There is sometimes the image of these men all being the same and favouring the same thing. While it is true, certainly, that most of them largely supported a conservative, elitist (or oligarchic) society which paid little attention to the plight of rural workers or to land reform; some bosses were more progressive than others and some were more nationalistic than others. For example, the elite in Pernambuco was much more progressive than the elite in, say, Bahia or Alagoas. Certain members of the elite had nationalist leanings, and some – I dare say – were somewhat progressive! Not all members of the elite were bad, some did some good for their region, notably by encouraging industrialization. Lastly, a fundamental aspect of the elite was that it was still very much flexible – within the confines of the status-quo – and had no exclusive ties to any political party. During the 1945-1964 era, for example, while the conservative UDN was often noted as the party of the old Northeastern elites, and, true enough, the region was consistently the UDN’s strongest, the local PSD and even PTB were very much dominated by the local elites as well.

It might be surprising to some that even with the advent of the secret ballot and apparent democracy in 1945 that the elites could still hold the power they held. As in much of South America, their power was largely hegemonic, indicating some sort of consent from the base. These political bosses still commanded peasants and through veiled threats of losing their jobs, shelter and source of sparse income they could easily control their voting habits.

Getúlio Vargas’s policies were only aimed at organizing urban labour and using the urban working-class as a base of political power similarly to how the old conservatives used Northeastern peasants as their base of political power. Vargas, himself a landowner (though in a society almost a world apart from that of the Northeast) had no interest in organizing the rural workers or disturbing the conservative status-quo in the vast swathes of the Nordeste. Vargas was never a true left-winger, let alone a radical or a communist. Given the nationalist leanings of certain political bosses in the region, he was able to garner the loyalty of the powerful Northeastern elite; though the Getulist (or PTB) organizing was weaker in the Northeast than anywhere else.

The 1946 Constitution, which restricted franchise to literate voters did much to ensure that the elite would not be disturbed by pesky dirt poor peasants. Encouraging literacy, something promoted both by the church and the government (after 1961), was thus seen as a danger by the elite. João Goulart’s 1963 push for ‘basic reforms’, most notable of which were agrarian and political reform, scared the elite more than a bit. Agrarian reform, of course, would break up the large latifundias which still dominated the sertão and break up the oligarch’s main source of power. Political reform, notably encouraging literacy and expanding franchise to illiterate voters, would transform Brazil into a mass democracy (throughout the 45-64 era, only 15-20% of the population actually voted) and would likely break up the power of the elite; because while the poor (and illiterate) peasantry was tightly controlled by the elites, they were also easy targets for nascent radical movements. What Goulart proposed Vargas would never have done, so the elite was shaken to its base by these reform. They had cared little, in the end, about Vargas’ shenanigans with the urban workers and his flirtation with left-wing nationalism because he didn’t dare disturb them. However, Goulart’s reforms endangered the system altogether. The Northeastern political elite was, therefore, entirely behind the 1964 coup which overthrew Goulart. While the support of the middle-classes and the legalist wing of the military for the coup was crucial, the support of the Northeastern elites undoubtedly played a great role. Conveniently, the 1964 coup and the subsequent decades of military dictatorship killed off the nascent radical political movements and stalled the question of land reform (as a political issue) for a long time.

In this context, the experience of Miguel Arraes in Pernambuco is perhaps of importance in highlighting what the political elite feared would happen. A democratic socialist supported by the PCB, Arraes narrowly won the governorship of Pernambuco in the 1962 elections, in an election which proved to be a major defeat for the ruling conservative elite. Certainly funding and monetary support from José Ermírio de Morais, a big (nationalist PTB) industrialist who was elected Senator the same day helped, but Arraes had been able to win by assembling a coalition uniting urban areas with sugar cane workers who were literate enough to vote. Perhaps Arraes would have been the beginning of the end for the elite if the military hadn’t turned back the clock.

The elite supported the military well until the end, at least until doing so stopped being a good strategy and when the military stopped providing the benefits it had done in the past. Master chameleons, the elite, or at least a good part of it, became, or so they claim, convinced democrats right around the time of the mass protests in favour of direct elections in 1984. Those who didn’t change colours then did so the following year, when the ruling majority’s nomination of Paulo Maluf, an unsavoury man, for the presidency alienated much of the regime’s Northeastern power brokers. These people split from the ruling PDS party and formed the Liberal Front Party (PFL) and promptly supported Tancredo Neves in the indirect 1985 election. For them, it couldn’t have been better given that Tancredo Neves (a fundamentally good man) tragically died right before taking office and José Sarney, one of these master chameleons, became President.

While urbanization, the growth of an independent media and higher literacy disturbed the elite by the 1980s, they still held much sway over the region. In the 1982 election, the pro-military and very conservative PDS swept the Northeast, taking nearly 67% of the vote against 43% nationally. That was a bit before the aforementioned change in colours, and in 1986 the old PDS (which was, by then, a far-right party) collapsed and the main fight in the region was between Sarney’s PMDB (which swept the country) and the PFL. The PFL’s ranks included well-known old conservative oligarchs who had supported the military and now played a key role in the new democratic regime; people such as Antônio Carlos Magalhães (ACM, the strongman of Bahia), Marco Maciel and José Agripino Maia. José Sarney himself, as far as I know, never joined the PFL (but at the same time played a major role in the creation of the party), but he also controlled the PFL organization in his home state of Maranhão. His daughter Roseana, for example, was a longtime member of the PFL (until they kicked her out). That being said, the PFL was not the only party for the old elite, and its support was not even throughout the region (in Ceará, the PSDB was dominant, for example). That being said, the PFL is best thought of as the main party of the elite.

Out of the vacuum on the right in 1989 emerged a political outsider and political novice, the young and flashy governor of Alagoas, Fernando Collor. Collor, whose father killed a fellow Senator and whose grandfather had been one of Vargas’ labour ministers, was the perfect representative for the elite. He was conservative, but also detached from the Sarney government in a way which allowed him to be the candidate of change. Collor was the symbol par excellence of the elite: conservative, dynastic and flexible within the system. After all, he had supported Sarney when it paid to do so, but broke all bridges with him when it was bad PR to do so. The darling of the right-wing media and the elite, Collor was the best candidate to take on the left, led by Lula and Leonel Brizola.

Collor defeated Lula with 53% in the runoff and took 55.7% in the Northeast (which was only his third-best region), but lost to Lula in the state of Pernambuco by a narrow margin of 50.9% to 49.1%. Lula had also done well in Bahia (48.3%), Rio Grande do Norte (47.4%) and Paraíba (45%), and his results certainly were a success for the PT which was extremely weak in the region. It did show that some peasants, formerly strictly regimented into political machines, rebelled in the isolation of the voting booth; but the bottom line was that the political bosses still held considerable sway, especially in rural areas. A better understanding of the nature of the election in the region is provided by a look at results in the context of municipalities.

Nordeste, 1989 election (runoff); source: Eleições em Dados

The map to the left reveals a quasi-perfect urban-rural divide, a divide which was seen throughout the country. Collor won the election almost solely on the power of the rural vote, getting obliterated by varying margins in the quasi-entirety of the country’s major urban centres (he may have won São Paulo narrowly). Maceió, AL is an exception to this rule; but Collor’s ownership of the state (and city) likely explains that. Certainly, however, in cities like Salvador, Recife or Fortaleza; Collor did very badly. Aside from the fact that Northeastern cities, which are far wealthier than the rural areas surrounding them, have been holdouts of urban labour or urban progressives against the ultra-conservative countryside; the urban centres were also the only one in 1989 to have had access to unbiased independent media sources which highlighted Collor’s shady side. His status as an old oligarch and his candidacy as one of the old right was certainly not an advantage in any urban centre, especially the most progressive ones like Recife, Salvador, Fortaleza or Rio.

There are various outspots of red in rural areas, likely explainable by a weak political machine in the specific region or an economy less reliant on agriculture and herding. The best example of such areas are in the São Francisco Valley, in towns such as Juazeiro, Petrolina and Petrolândia, where the economy revolves more around hydroelectricity and industry than around herding. But the main thing here is that the rural areas are varying shades of blue, more often that not darker shades of blue. Certainly Collor dominated in the vast majority of the herding-reliant sertão, which was the base of the political bosses of yesterday, more so than the coastal areas which were slightly less conservative.

Collor’s impeachment in 1992 didn’t end the power of the elite, which showed its flexibility in its relations with Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC). As a rather leftie sociologist and intellectual, FHC likely had little love for the elite and they barely hid their contempt for him. The Bahian baron of the PFL, Antônio Carlos Magalhães, criticized FHC’s anti-inflation Plano Real right at the outset. However, when the Plano Real proved to be a resounding success and Cardoso showed his interest in taking the top job in 1994, the elite widely acclaimed Cardoso as the candidate of the right and his running-mate, Marco Maciel (PFL-PE) gave from their ranks. Cardoso certainly wasn’t their natural choice, and probably not their preferred choice. But pragmatically, FHC was the Brazilian right’s only hope against Lula, who had been leading in all opinion polling until at least mid-summer 1994.

FHC defeated Lula on the back of the resoundingly successful Plano Collor by the first round, taking 54.3% nationally by the first round and 57.6% in the Northeast. Lula won 30.3% in the region, slightly more than what he got nationally and did well in Pernambuco (37%), Sergipe (36.9%), Bahia (35.2%) and Piauí (32%). Contrarily to Collor in 1989, FHC also performed very well in urban areas. Of the state capitals, all but one of which had been swept by Lula in 1989, FHC won five of them and Lula’s win in Salvador was not as massive as it had been in 1989. Certainly, FHC had a better image in urban areas than Collor did. Largely the same thing happened in 1998, though FHC did worse in the Northeast than nationally (47.7% vs. 53.1%) though not as much to Lula’s benefit (31.6% regionally vs. 31.7%) but to the benefit of Ceará’s favourite son Ciro Gomes who won 16% regionally and 11% nationally (and narrowly won his home-state, which was practically a 3-way tie).

Some will argue that 2002 represents the turning point in the Nordeste’s voting patterns, but I disagree. Certainly, Lula won big in the Northeast and that is not a small fact. He turned the region red, but at the same time he turned the quasi-entirety of the country red, even the wealthy, white conservative states of the south. Lula’s appeal in 2002 was broad, something which comes both from his campaign style and rhetoric, which was unusually moderate and ‘calm’ (gone, obviously, was the angry bearded Lula); and from FHC’s widespread unpopularity after a bad second term. That explains why the regional results in the runoff were all within 3-4% of the national result (61.3%). With 61.5% in the Northeast, it was hard to say then that the region was the key stronghold of the new left. What’s more, the only state which Lula lost was in the Northeast – Alagoas, the last holdout of the conservative elite; and a look at results by municipality reveals that you still had a fair number of random patches of conservative blue in the traditional rural strongholds of the elite.

Results of state-level results in 2002 also provide ample evidence that the realignment had not occurred by 2002. With the exception of Piauí where Wellington Dias (PT) defeated incumbent PFL governor Hugo Napoleão, the parties representing the old order held on in most states. In Pernambuco, Humberto Costa (PT) was badly defeated by right-winger Jarbas Vasconcelos (PMDB), while in Bahia Paulo Souto (PFL) easily defeated Jaques Wagner (PT). The candidates of the right, generally speaking, also performed well in the senatorial election. Thus, while Lula won big in the region even in 2002, an analysis of results both at a micro level and a downballot level provides evidence to claim that 2002 was not a realignment and the presidential results were merely part of the wave which swept Brazil.

Results of the 2010 presidential election by municipality (own work)

The realignment came in 2006, which was a defining election in terms of defining the effects of the first left-wing government in Brazil since the 1960s on the voting behaviours of Brazilians. In 2002, in the first round, Lula had done about as well in the Northeast than in Brazil (slightly worse, in fact). In 2006, he performed 18% better in the Northeast than in the country as a whole. In the runoff, that figure was 16%. Overall, he won 66.8% in the region by the first round and took a crushing 77.1% of the votes in the runoff. Just by those results, as well as his sheer domination – even by the first round – in most of the backwoods of the sertão, it was clear that a major realignment had taken place.

At the state level, unlike in 2002, the forces of the left did well. Of course in Bahia, Jaques Wagner unexpectedly defeated incumbent PFL Governor Paulo Souto by a ten-point margin in the first round. In Pernambuco, with the quasi-unanimous backing of Humberto Costa’s first round voters, Eduardo Campos (PSB, Arraes’ grandson) easily defeated governor José Mendonça Filho (PFL) in the runoff. In Ceará, Cid Gomes (PSB) defeated governor Lúcio Alcântara by a crushing 28-point margin in the first round. Finally, in Maranhão, governor Roseana Sarney (PFL) was narrowly defeated by Jackson Lago (PDT) in the runoff, a victory which, at the time, was considered a major blow to the Sarney clan, dominant in Maranhense politics.

The results of the first round of the 2010 election provided no indication that the 2006 result were an aberration. Quite to the contrary, it arguably showed, to some extent, an amplification of the 2006 realignment. With the notable exception of Rio Grande do Norte (which was caused by local conditions), big names on the old right went down to defeat badly. Tasso Jereissati, a dominant Cearan politician of the PSDB, was badly defeated running for what was thought to be easy re-election to the Senate. Marco Maciel, a key figure of the old PFL and a key symbol of the old conservative oligarchs who had supported the military, was badly defeated. César Borges, though allied with Lula, lost badly in Bahia; where Jaques Wagner won a landslide reelection over his 2002 and 2006 rival Paulo Souto. In Pernambuco, finally, Eduardo Campos (PSB) was reelected with one of the biggest margins in Brazilian political history, over a well-known politico (Jarbas) no less.

An amusing anecdote showing the new force of the left in the region is how even those on the right are attempting to place more emphasis on their relations with Lula than their relations with their party. A notable example is that of Teo Vilela Jr, the incumbent PSDB governor of Alagoas in a tough fight for reelection. Nothing on his website indicates his party, let alone his party’s presidential nominee, but instead had a nice article on how Lula had praised his work. He himself also had lots of nice things to say about Lula, all part of a strategy to confuse voters into thinking that he was Lula’s candidate, when technically he’s a member of the main opposition party to the President.

An analysis of the results of the 2010 elections by municipality shows the utter dominance of the left in the sertão. This is where the electoral realignment occurred and where it was most dramatic. In large swathes of the massive sertão, which covers most of the region’s interior, Dilma won well over 60% of the votes and in parts of Bahia, Pernambuco, Ceará, Piauí and Maranhão her results in the sertão were even well into the 70-80% range with a few municipalities (mostly small) giving her over 90% of the votes. Only eight years ago, a fair share of those had still given Serra a near majority of the votes. An interesting case study in the voting shifts at work in the sertão is the municipality of Caetés, Pernambuco. Caetés is the birthplace of Lula, and is a typical dirt poor village in the sertão. In 1994 and 1998, Lula lost the village by a big margin (FHC had even taken over 60% there in 1998). Dilma won 81% this year (Serra won 15%). In 2002, Lula had won 54% in the first round. Most of the littoral remains left-wing, though by somewhat smaller margins. Conversely, the left’s strength in the region’s urban centres (which are much more well-off than the rural areas) has abetted somewhat since the highs of 1989, a trend observed in a number of major urban centres throughout Brazil (ironically, Lula’s average voter in 1989 was probably wealthier than Collor’s). Marina Silva did very well in the region’s major cities this year, in line with her strong performances in well-educated and averagely well-off urban areas; though Serra did very poorly, though Marina likely took a lot of votes which otherwise would have gone to him. That being said, most urban centres, especially Salvador, remain staunchly left-wing; with the exception of places like Maceió and Aracaju.

How did such a realignment happen?

While the Northeast was demographically perfect ground for the left in any western democracy, like in most of Latin America the tight control of the population by an oligarchic elite kept the region safely in conservative hands for most of the twentieth century. The slow moves towards agrarian democracy and somewhat equitable land distribution as well as the gradual loss of power by the old elites through increased education, awareness, freedom and wealth undoubtedly played a major role in ending the power of the conservative dominant class. The increased literacy rate and educational level in the region are also exemplified by the massive collapse in invalid votes. Illiterates can vote since 1988 (though, unlike literate voters, they are not legally compelled to do so), and the vote is now done electronically (since 1994). Unsurprisingly, there is a definite correlation between illiteracy and a high percentage of blank votes. The percentage of invalid votes in the region has dwindled from roughly 30% in 1994 to slightly above 10% this year.

The PT was, at its foundation, a largely urban party based in urban, organized labour. While it did have a few bases of more rural support (notably in Acre), the party was especially weak in the rural Nordeste where it had no natural base with rural workers. It was only the experience of the left in power which allowed the party to build a solid base in the region, thanks to the social policies of the Lula government which are of great importance to the region. There is a very high positive correlation between votes for the left in a municipality and the number of Bolsa Família beneficiaries in said municipality. What Lula and the left has achieved is, in a way, the eternal and unrealized goal of most of the Latin American left: creating a durable alliance between urban and rural workers. That was what Goulart wanted to achieve in 1964, but he was far ahead of his day in that regard.

Some of this would probably not have happened without the flexibility and opportunism of the elite. The elite might have been conservative and downright horrible in most senses of the term, but they certainly weren’t inflexible or stubborn. Their flexibility within the confines of the established system allowed them to survive, and will allow some of them to survive in the future. Brazilian politicians, of course, are not known for their moral stature or their ideological consistency. Most don’t see an issue with supporting two ideologically opposed governments, and most choose their allies based on the amount of money they can offer them. A fair share of the formerly conservative elite thus realized that their new interests lay with Lula, and so they choose to support Lula even though they were all diehard opponents of his back in 1989. Notable Northeastern oligarchs who took this route include José Sarney (PMDB), who has become one of the President’s biggest allies; Fernando Collor (PTB); Renan Calheiros (PMDB); Roseana Sarney (PMDB), a former pefelista expelled for supporting Lula in 2006; Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB) and César Borges (PR). People like Garibaldi Alves Filho (and his father) can also be counted as allies, albeit less reliable than Sarney, of the left. Those who haven’t abandoned their right-wing roots, haven’t done so well. Marco Maciel and Tasso Jereissati are good examples. As corrupt and distasteful as they might be, the old elite still carry a lot of weight around with their family names and they are still able to bring pork back to their regions. They might not be doing so well as in the past, but the contemporary coronels who’ve understood where the advantages lie aren’t going to kick the bucket just yet.

Evolution of votes for the PFL in elections to the Chamber of Deputies since 1986

A telling story of the decline of the conservative oligarchy in the region is that of the PFL. While not representative of the entire ruling elite, which was spread out over a whole slew of parties, the PFL is the most representative of the old elite and is intimately linked to conservative oligarchs who allied with the military in 1964, supported it until it became the bad thing to do and quickly converted themselves into convinced democrats, or so they claim. For any right-wing candidate, the support of the PFL was crucial. FHC understood that in 1994 and 1998, and thus accepted an alliance with them, even though it kind of went against everything he stood for as a progressive intellectual opponent of the military regime. The PFL controlled a near majority of governorships and senate seats in the Northeast, and their support was thus key to the right (read, the PSDB). The PFL wasn’t strong in all states of the Northeast, for example they always lacked a base in Ceará and were weak in states such as Alagoas or Paraíba; but overall, they were the dominant party in the region. They held the plurality of the region’s seats in the Chamber of Deputies between 1990 and 2010, and between 1990 and 2006 they controlled at least two governorships in the region, often more than that.

However, as the direct representatives of the old order, they stood to lose the most from the realignment described above. And indeed it did. The chart above shows the evolution of the votes for the PFL in elections to the Chamber of Deputies between 1986 and 2010. 1986 is perhaps abnormaly high given the two-party nature of Brazilian politics that year, but between 1990 and 2002 the PFL won over 24% of the votes in each election region-wide. In 2006, for the first time, their vote fell below 20% to reach 17%; but even then they still controlled a narrow plurality of the seats in the region and topped the poll in the region. It was to be their last hurrah. In 2010, their vote collapsed below the 10% line to reach a paltry 9.41%. A spectacular decline of nearly 15% in a period of 8 years. That has significantly reduced the party’s caucus in both chambers, and they are no longer the region’s dominant party (the PT and PMDB, like in the rest of Brazil, have taken up that role).

The story of the Nordeste’s drastic electoral evolution in such a short period of times highlights not only the decline and perhaps upcoming fall of the coronels and caciques of yesterday, but also highlights a fundamental realignment in the voting patterns of Brazilians in the wake of the first left-wing government in the country since the 1960s. The story of one of Latin America’s most fascinating regions is also the story of many regions of Brazil and Latin America as a whole.

Brazil 2010

The first round of presidential, legislative, gubernatorial and state elections were held in Brazil on October 3. Runoffs for the presidential race and a handful of gubernatorial contests will be held on October 31. Here’s the results of the main races, presidential and otherwise:

Dilma Rousseff (PT) 46.91%
José Serra (PSDB) 32.61%
Marina Silva (PV) 19.33%
Plínio de Arruda Sampaio (PSOL) 0.87%
José Maria Eymael (PSDC) 0.09%
José Maria de Almeida (PSTU) 0.08%
Levy Fidélix (PRTB) 0.06%
Ivan Pinheiro (PCB) 0.04%
Rui Costa Pimenta (PCO) 0.01%
blank and null 8.64%

The main surprise, of sorts, of this election was the fact that Dilma will have to face a runoff against Serra, something which most did not predict. Though she had struggled, so to speak, in the final days, most pollsters predicted that she would still win outright by the first round. It isn’t to say that the pollsters botched this one, given that the last poll by Datafolha the day before the vote had her at 50% with a margin of error of 3%, which places her result within the margin of error. But something certainly happened. Even though voting is mandatory in Brazil, the rule is not strictly applied and abstention always ends up being slightly below 20%, and given that voting in Brazil is electronic through machines, the number of blank and null votes is often quite high. Abstention is always higher in poorer and more remote areas, which tend to favour the PT. Another factor may have been a low potency scandal in the Chief of Staff (Casa Civil)’s office involving Dilma’s successor in that office which she herself held until recently. Such a scandal might have influenced some of the PT’s more urban and educated voters to switch their votes at the last minute to Marina Silva, the Green candidate.  At the same time, some Dilma voters might not have bothered turning out because almost everybody said she’d win outright.

Marina Silva was the main over-performer of the first round, defying almost all expectations and garnering around 19% of the vote. While she surged in the last few days of the campaign, she spent most of it languishing in the low double digits or high single digits, and people had assume d that her ‘centrist’ vote would be squeezed in the last weeks of the campaign. Instead, her vote reflects perhaps discontent by some voters about the polarized political system which, despite a multitude of parties, basically has two national-level coalitions which seem rather solid. On the other hand, her high vote could also reflect her coalescing the evangelical vote (20% or so) behind her, especially after Dilma’s numbers with evangelicals fell in the last few days as rumours circulated about her being supposedly pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. Marina, evangelical herself though hardly an hardcore conservative on social issues, might have benefited from her image as the only evangelical candidate.

The patterns which first emerged in the 2006 election, with the creation of more or less solid “red states” and “blue states” has held in this election. Despite the widespread popularity of Lula and the prosperity which has come, for some more than others, on Brazilians; the division of the electorate along lines of incomes and social class have prevailed. As in 2006, the wealthier (and whiter) states preferred the candidate of the PSDB. Poorer (and often darker-skinned) voters, especially in the impoverished Nordeste preferred the candidate of the PT. The reasons are rather simple: poorer voters feel indebted to Lula’s party and almost worship him. On the other hand, wealthier voters still feel rather uneasy with the PT and are more likely to be worried by arguments that Lula and his allies and trying to transform the PT into an equivalent of the Mexican PRI and rule the country for the next 50 years or so.

All but three states which voted for Alckmin in the first round of 2006 voted for Serra on Sunday. All but one of the states which voted for Alckmin in the runoff in 2006 voted for Serra in 2006 (as did two other states which voted for Lula in the runoff, but Alckmin in the first round). The only state which broke from this line was Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, and one of the wealthiest and traditionally more or less conservative (at least recently). Given that Dilma is from Rio Grande do Sul (though born in Minas Gerais), having started her political career in Porto Alegre (which, ironically, she lost) it is explainable. The unpopularity of the state’s PSDB governor, Yeda Crusius, probably helped her as well.

At this point, a map at the municipal level is of some use, so here is a great map provided by the Estado de São Paulo newspaper:

If there’s one state which makes little sense, it has to be Acre. Although it’s one of the PT’s earliest bases outside São Paulo, it had voted for Alckmin in the first round of 2006. This time, however, it heavily backed Serra, in fact it was his best state of all 27, with 52.13% of the vote. This despite having a relatively popular PT state government, and of course being Marina Silva’s home state. Some have suggested a recent growth in agrobusiness here as a possible explanation for this shift in the state, which probably started in 2006. In Xapuri, which was the home base of well-known rubber tapper (and PT founding figure) Chico Mendes, Serra won over 53% of the vote and Marina won only 14% of the vote there, despite being rather closely connected with Chico Mendes’ legacy. As we’ll see later, the gubernatorial results in Acre also got me to scratch my head a bit.

The other results are not surprising. Save for some closer margins in Sergipe (judging from gubernatorial results, the PT state government’s possible unpopularity might explain that) and Alagoas (Maceió is probably the only consistently right-wing urban centre in the region); Dilma crushed in the Nordeste. In Maranhão, where she had the backing of both the Sarney machine and the sociological-demographic nature of the state behind her, she won 70.65% of the vote, her best state. She did especially well in Piauí and Ceará, as well as Pernambuco and Bahia. In the sertão region of the Northeast, Dilma won by some massive margins. Often over 70% of the vote, and over 80% in a number of municipalities as well. The dry and arid sertão, used to droughts and with little year-round agriculture, is dirt-poor and the poorest region of Brazil by far (it’s also Lula’s native land). The more humid and greener coastal regions are slightly wealthier, and historically dominated by sugarcane, but they’re equally poor.

Amazonas is now a rather awkward stickout on maps, with the originality of being Serra’s weakest state (8.5%) and one of Dilma’s strongest (65%) while being surrounded by some of Serra’s best states. The state is very poor (but so are Acre and Roraima), but has benefited a lot from federal funding since 2002 and the PSDB’s policies in regards to trade are rather unpopular in the Manaus Free Trade Zone. Some might be led into thinking that Amazonas is heavily Native (‘Indian’), but in fact Roraima has the highest native population, albeit only 4% or so. On the topic of Roraima, as well as Rondônia and southwestern Pará, the relative strength of the right in those regions is likely due to land use patterns, with a lot of big soy farms (like in Mato Grosso and the western Centre-West region as a whole) and important agrobusiness in the area. The fact that most inhabitants in those regions (who are largely white) settled there during the military regime probably also plays a role. Evangelical voters – who lean more to the right (Democrats in particular, PSDB much less so) than Catholics are also found in large numbers in the isolated regions of the North. Unsurprisingly, given Marina’s staunch opposition to hydroelectric dams and agrobusiness developments in general, she did extremely poorly (between 1 and 7% generally) in the ‘blue’ municipalities of the North and Centre-West.

In the densely populated South and South-West, Serra did best in the wealthiest municipalities, which can be defined as forming a rough string between the northeastern part of Rio Grande do Sul, into the coastal regions of Santa Catarina and Paraná and ending up in São Paulo and the Paraiba Valley. He won the city of São Paulo 40-38 (a map of the vote in the city’s boroughs can be found here); though Dilma won most of the industrial ABC belt (including Lula’s union base of São Bernardo do Campo) though obviously she did badly in places like São Caetano do Sul (the wealthiest municipality in Brazil, which forms the ‘C’ of the ABC belt). Serra also generally dominated in most of the Paulista countryside, though Dilma did well in the industrial areas in and around Campinas, the state’s other main population centre.

Elections are usually won in Minas Gerais, and Dilma won there by a 16 point margin over Serra. Serra was confined to the wealthier, whiter rural areas of southwestern Minas Gerais, while Dilma crushed him by huge margins, often raking up 60-70% of the vote. However, in Belo Horizonte, the state capital and one of the wealthiest towns in Brazil, Marina Silva won 39.88% to Dilma’s 30.92% and Serra’s 27.73%.

Marina Silva won or did well in urban centres, especially those wealthy, educated and younger towns. Belo Horizonte is one of those towns, but a better example is Brasilia – Marina won the DF easily with nearly 42% of the vote, more than 10 points ahead of Dilma. Brasilia is a largely educated, well-off town with a lot of public servants. Marina also did well in Rio (31.91% – a map of the vote in the city’s boroughs can be found here), Niteroi (37.05%), Recife (36.73%), Natal (29.41%), Salvador (30.21%), Fortaleza (31.39%), Manaus (35.9%), Macapa (34.81%) and Rio Branco (35.64%  – her home town). All these towns reflect an averagely well-off, middle-aged to young and very educated electorate common to almost all Green parties in the world. She also performed well in some seaside resort communities such as Vila Velha (ES) and places slightly east of Rio de Janeiro. The second part of her electorate, which can explain her good results in states like Rio but also Amapá and Espírito Santo is an evangelical base, attached to her more for her image as an evangelical than for her program (she is not a social conservative, or at least not unusually social conservative in the national context).

The mere fact that Serra wasn’t knocked out of contention by the first round has given new hope, futile hope, to the PSDB that they still have a shot at winning. In fact, it really doesn’t. Dilma is a mere 3% away from a majority, so on paper she needs barely any votes from Marina Silva. Thus, Marina isn’t necessarily the kingmaker (or queenmaker) she wants to be nor the kingmaker certain make her. She is likely to announce whether or not she endorses somebody in the next 15 days, and has put questions such as abortion (where she wants a referendum on the issue), forestry and the environment on the table. Some say that given that she left her job in the Senate to run for President, she could be interested in negotiating a way into cabinet for herself, though it is hard to envision such a scenario. She is on bad terms with Dilma, with whom she often feuded in the past when they were both in cabinet (especially when Dilma was energy minister). They also disagree on the issue of new hydroelectric power in the Amazon as well as the growth of agrobusiness (such as soy) in the North and Centre-West. Furthermore, while she has already said her personal decision might contradict that of the Green Party, the PV itself seems to be leaning more towards Serra and the second most well-known Green, Fernando Gabeira (PV-RJ) has already endorsed Serra.

The average Green voter has been explained above briefly and divided into two classes. The first demographic, the educated rather affluent urban voter, is more similar to the average Serra voter than the average Dilma voter. For example, all but one of the districts that Marina won in Rio voted for Alckmin in the first round of 2006. Their vote for Marina over the other two could reflect discontent with the two-coalition system which is growing in Brazil, and their vote in the runoff could be a “least worst” vote. The results in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia and Rio will be good guides on election night as to how this electorate split in the runoff. The second demographic, poorer and evangelical, might be guided more by their church and pastor than by the candidate. This is where the touchy issue of abortion comes into play, because these voters likely abandoned Dilma’s ship in the last few days after the rumours that she was pro-choice started swirling. They might be harder to catch than one might think, and that’s why the PT is seriously considering turning around on abortion to adopt a more conservative position in order to court the evangelical vote.


Nine out of 27 races will end in a runoff on October 31. In general, these gubernatorial races were generally more favourable to the right than federal-level races were. The right was comforted with big wins in Brazil’s two most populous states, São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

Out of 18 states won outright, the PSDB has 4 governors’ mansions, as does the PT and PMDB. The PSB has two, tied with the Democrats. The PMN, a small party aligned with the opposition, has one.

In Acre, the result was pretty boggling. Tião Viana (PT) was expected to easily defeat Tião Bocalom (PSDB), who was a low-key paper candidate, but instead he got a very close race and managed squeak out a win only narrowly with 50.51% to Bocalom’s 49.18%. The PT has ruled in Acre for the last 12 years or so, which indicates that some important change is perhaps taking place in the state’s politics.

In Alagoas, the incumbent Governor, Teo Vilela (PSDB) was a dead man walking a few months ago, but by the first round he placed well ahead of his two main rivals, taking 39.58% of the vote and a comfortable first place ahead of the runoff. A big endorsement from the popular mayor of Maceió helped him a lot, as did his cozying up with Lula (despite being in an opposition party) in a state where Lula is pretty popular. The other surprise was for second place, which went to former Governor Ronaldo Lessa (PDT), who won 29.16%; narrowly pulling ahead of disgraced President, former Governor and incumbent Senator Fernando Collor (PTB) who won only 28.81%. Collor was thought to be the favourite a few months ago and was still considered likely to get into the runoff just days ago, but narrowly missed out on the runoff. The runoff will likely be one of the key races to watch for on October 31. Teo Vilela is favoured, but in a shocking turn of events, Collor endorsed his former enemy, Lessa, for the runoff. Collor, who defeated Lessa in the 2006 senatorial contest, would prefer to have Lessa as Governor as he runs for re-election in 2014.

In Amazonas, incumbent Governor Omar Aziz (PMN) won a landslide re-election, taking 63.87% of the votes against 25.91% for Senator Alfredo Nascimento (PR), a former Lula cabinet minister. The PPS’ Hissa Abrahão won 9.36%.

In Amapá, the incumbent Governor Pedro Paulo (PP) spent some of the last days of his campaign in… jail for corruption. Thankfully, he was easily defeated in his bid for re-election, taking fourth place and only 13.5%. This leaves a runoff between Lucas (PTB), supported by the Sarney machine, and a Sarney rival, Camilo Capiberibe (PSB). Both candidates ended up practically tied, with Lucas ahead with 28.93% and Capiberibe trailing with 28.68%. Jorge Amanjas (PSDB), another Sarney ally, won 28.19% and is likely the kingmaker. Given that the Capiberibe family are the enemies of the Great Sarney Machine in José Sarney’s personal colony, Lucas should be favoured.

Bahia was a great victory for the PT and its candidate, Jaques Wagner, over the previously hegemonic PFL machine led by the late Antonio Carlos Magalhães (ACM). Jaques Wagner’s re-election, over former governor and 2006 rival Paulo Souto (DEM) but also former Lula cabinet minister Geddel Vieira Lima (PMDB), was nothing short of spectacular. Even though he lacked the support of the PMDB, which had been crucial to the PT in 2006, Wagner won a landslide with 63.83% of the vote to Souto’s 16.09% and Geddel’s paltry 15.56%. This plebiscite-like reelection for Wagner is a nice highlight of how the Northeast has shifted far to the left during Lula’s terms.

Ceará Governor Cid Gomes (PSB), brother of Ciro, was easily re-elected against weak opposition with 61.27%. Marcos Cals (PSDB), a paper candidate, did surprisingly well for one, taking 19.51%. He also managed second place against a far more well-known candidate, Lúcio Alcântara (PR), the state’s governor between 2002 and 2006 until he lost to Ciro Gomes.  Lúcio took 16.44% of the vote.

Some runoffs, like that in the Federal District, will be boring. Former cabinet minister Agnelo Queiroz (PT) took 48.41% of the vote, narrowly missing out on a first round win against a fledgling opposition. Joaquim Roriz (PSC), a crook, had his candidacy rejected and gave his candidacy to his wife, Weslian, who still managed 31.50%. Toninho (PSOL) did really well, winning 14.25%, votes which should ensure a landslide win for Agnelo in the runoff. A Green candidate also won 5.64% of the vote.

We knew that in Espírito Santo Renato Casagrande (PSB) would win a first term easily, but that easily? His crushing victory with a full 82.30% of the vote surprised some. Luiz Paulo (PSDB) only managed 15.50% of the vote against the Senator and incoming Governor.

Another interesting runoff in the offing in Goiás, where former governor and incumbent Senator Marconi Perillo (PSDB) missed out on a first round win narrowly, taking 46.33%. He will face the PMDB’s Iris Rezende, a former governor as well, in the runoff. Though Perillo used to be allied with incumbent Governor Alcides Rodrigues (PP), who was in fact his chosen successor in 2006, the two have broken up and the incumbent supported Vanderlan (PR) to succeed him. Vanderlan won 16.62%, but if he supports Rezende, which is quite likely, it means this race is a key tossup.

In Maranhão, incumbent Govenor Roseana Sarney (PMDB) won re-election by the first round, defeating notably her 2006 rival, Jackson Lago (PDT), who defeated her four years ago (but was later forced out of office for vote buying). She narrowly escaped a runoff, which are really perilous for her, with 50.08% of the vote. In second place was the PCdoB’s Flávio Dino with 29.49%. Disgraced Jackson Lago (PDT), the de-facto right-winger in the race, got a paltry 19.54%. Daddy’s girl will likely be happy she escaped a runoff.

In the end, Minas Gerais was not much fun. After surging in the last month, as I had predicted, incumbent Governor Antonio Anastasia (PSDB), supported by outgoing governor Aécio Neves, won rather easily over the earlier favourite, former Lula cabinet minister and Senator Hélio Costa (PMDB). Anastasia won a crushing 62.72% to Hélio’s 34.18%. This third consecutive PSDB win in Minas Gerais, the country’s second most populous, this time on the back of Aécio’s popularity, is an important boost the PSDB at the state level. This, combined with power in São Paulo, gives it important leverage on the state level.

Mato Grosso do Sul incumbent Governor Andre Puccinelli (PMDB – right-wing) was easily reelected with 56% against former governor Zeca do PT’s 42.5%.

In office only since the spring, Mato Grosso Governor Silval Barbosa (PMDB) was easily re-elected. He won 51.21% of the vote, while his closest rival, Mauro Mendes (PSB) won 31.85%. Wilson Santos (PSDB) won 16.55%.

Pará‘s Governor, Ana Julia (PT) is in a very bad shape for reelection though she escaped a first round ousting against former governor Simão Jatene (PSDB). Ana Julia has 36.05% against 48.92% for Simão Jatene. The 10.85% garnered by independent PMDB candidate Juvenil could help her, but Simão Jatene will win the runoff easily.

A surprising result in Paraíba where the predicted easy win for Governor Ze Maranhão (PMDB) was not. The incumbent fell to a narrow second, with 49.30% of the vote against 49.74% for Ricardo Coutinho (PSB – right-wing). The rest of the vote went to far-left sects and the PSOL, votes that could place the incumbent over the top. Another boost for Maranhão is an endorsement from Toinho do Sopão (PTN), who got the most votes for state deputy, and who endorsed him over Coutinho, who has the support of the PTN (which is a fake party). It’s still a key tossup.

As expected, Pernambuco Governor Eduardo Campos (PSB) won a huge landslide, winning 82.84% of the vote overall, nearly 6% better than Aécio Neves’ huge win in MG-2006. He trounced former governor and incumbent Senator Jarbas Vasconcelos (PMDB – right-wing) badly, leaving Jarbas with only 14.06% of the vote. Eduardo Campos will be term-limited in 2014, when Jarbas is up for re-election. Therefore, we could see a third Campos-Jarbas contest then, this time for Senate.

Piauí has a runoff too, but it’s pretty boring. Governor Wilson Martins (PSB), in office since the spring, won 46.37%. Silvio Mendes (PSDB) won 30.08%, while another candidate on the left, João Vicente (PTB) won 21.54%. João Vicente endorsed Wilson Martins, meaning that he’ll win easily in the runoff.

Those hoping for a nice race in Paraná were let down by the easy win there by former Curitiba mayor Beto Richa (PSDB), who won 52.44%, easily beating Senator Osmar Dias (PDT) who won 45.63%. A last-minute poll had shown the race tied 45-45, after weeks of catchup by Osmar Dias, but Beto Richa won by a surprisingly strong margin. His popularity in the capital, Curitiba, likely played a big role in his win.

In Rio de Janeiro, Governor Sergio Cabral (PMDB) won a second-term with no trouble, winning the first round with 66.08% against a paltry 20.68% for Fernando Gabeira (PV – right-wing). Fernando Peregrino (PR), the candidate supported by well-known local politician and former governor Anthony Garotinho did well, winning 10.81%. I like to poke fun at the fact that Cabral spends a lot of time away on vacation, but aside from the PT’s support, he also has a good record with crime, definitely the big issue in Rio. Crime rates dropped quite a bit under his tenure, despite the well-mediatized hostage situation during the summer.

A rare bright spot in Rio Grande do Norte for the declining Democrats, who picked up a PSB seat by the first round with a big win from Senator Rosalba Ciarlini (DEM) over incumbent Governor Iberê Souza (PSB). Rosalba won 52.46% of the vote against Ibere’s 36.25%. Former Natal mayor Carlos Eduardo Alves (PDT) did poorly, winning 10.37% of the vote. Iberê, in office since the spring, had some health problems and the administration of her predecessor, Vilma, who ran for Senate, was rather unpopular.

In Rondônia, Governor João Cahulla (PPS) took office only in the spring and is facing a tough fight for re-election. By the first round, he had 37.14% of the vote against PMDB candidate Confúcio Moura who won 43.99%. PT candidate Eduardo Valverde won 18.16% of the vote, while a top contender, PSDB Senator Expedito Júnior saw his votes discarded because his candidacy is still question to judicial review. At any rate, Expedito Júnior endorsed the PMDB candidate, giving Confúcio Moura a further edge for the runoff.

In Roraima, Governor Anchieta (PSDB), another of those new incumbents, is also in hot water for reelection, trailing PP candidate Neudo Campos with 45.03% to Campos’ 47.62%. With the support of Dr. Petronio (PHS), who won 6.39%, his reelection, however, becomes far more likely. Definitely a runoff to watch.

In Rio Grande do Sul, the PT’s Tarso Genro, who lost in 2006, won his revenge easily, with a big win over former Porto Alegre mayor José Fogaça (PMDB – right-wing) and incumbent Governor Yeda Crusius (PSDB). Tarso won 54.35% of the vote, while Fogaça won 24.74%. Yeda Crusius has been unpopular for a long time and was sure to go down (and badly), and she won only 18.40%, though that’s a bit better than the 15% most people gave her. There is a definite tendency in Brazil that women politicians and officeholders are held to a much higher standard than males and thus punished far more badly than males when they screw up. I dare say that if Yeda Crusius had been a male, she’d have done quite a bit better than that.

In Santa Catarina, former mayor of Florianópolis Ângela Amin (PP) was the favourite until a late surge by Senator Raimundo Colombo (DEM), supported by the PMDB, had her in. Raimundo Colombo won outright with 52.72%, while Ângela Amin took 24.91%. The PT’s Ideli Salvatti won 21.90%. Ângela Amin, well known and well liked in the state, was relying largely on her personal appeal more than partisan support, but she suffered from a late swing by traditional right-wing PP voters from the PP to the Democrats.

In Sergipe, Governor Marcelo Déda (PT) won re-election over his predecessor and old PFL politico João Alves Filho (DEM), taking 52.08% of the vote to João Alves’ 45.19%. Déda had defeated then-Governor João Alves Filho by the exact same margin in 2006.

São Paulo is undoubtedly one of the big prizes in Brazilian gubernatorial races, and this time again it was held easily by the PSDB against the PT. Former Governor and 2006 presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) was running for a second non-consecutive term against Aloizio Mercadante, an old PT stalwart. Alckmin won 50.63%, less than what Serra had won in 2006, against 35.23% fro Mercadante. Celso Russomanno (PP) took a paltry 5.42%, much lower than predicted, while the PSB’s Paulo Skaf won 4.56%. A Green candidate won 4.13% of the vote, finishing fifth. Alckmin still won the state by a much more decisive margin than his colleague Serra did in the presidential race.

The Tocantins gubernatorial contest was a close one-on-one contest between incumbent Governor Carlos Gaguim (PMDB), who despite being in office only since September 2009, had already managed to become a crook attempting to divert one billion reais; and the state’s first and later three-term Governor, Siqueira Campos (PSDB). Siqueira Campos narrowly won, with 50.52%, against 49.48% for the incumbent criminal, who had been honest enough to say that he was going to hell when the world ended.


The outgoing Senate, two-thirds of which had been elected in 2002, had a large right-wing caucus of varying shades, notably a large old PFL caucus from the Northeast and a weak PT bench. After this election, the government now has a clear unambiguous majority in the Senate, while the Democrats have suffered heavily. A number of big names from the opposition were taken down by a “red wave” in the Nordeste this year, marking a further evolution in the region’s fast-evolving politics.

PMDB 21 seats (+4)
PT 14 seats (+5)
PSDB 10 seats (-6)
DEM 6 seats (-7)
PTB 6 seats (-1)
PP 5 seats (+4)
PR 4 seats (nc)
PDT 4 seats (-2)
PSB 3 seats (+1)
PCdoB 2 seats (+1)
PSOL 2 seats (+1)
PRB 1 seat (-1)
PPS 1 seat (+1)
PSC 1 seat (nc)
PMN 1 seat (+1)

O Globo classifies 55 of these 81 senators as being pro-government, 22 as being anti-government and four being independent. Results in three states may change when the courts will decide whether to allow or reject the candidacies of key candidates who would have won a seat if their votes had been counted. As it stands now, votes cast for these politicians under judicial review under the Ficha Limpa (clean slate) law were not counted, but they will or will not be counted officially if and when the courts approve their candidacies.

When looking at these races by state, don’t forget that this year two seats were up, meaning that each voter had two votes. The votes were added up, summed to 100% and the top two candidates won. In polls, however, responses added up to 200%. In Senate races, the votes cast are about double the votes cast for president/governor, meaning that if one wants to know overall how many individual voters voted for a candidate, double his percentage and that should tell you (I think, I’m bad at math) the percentage of people who voted for said candidate. Anyway, here’s a look at how the races broke down by state:

Acre: Jorge Viana (PT), the brother of the new governor, narrowly won first place with 31.77% while the right-wing PMN’s Petecão took second place, with 30.90%. Some had thought that the second name on the left-wing slate, Edvaldo Magalhães (PCdoB) could win the second seat, but in the end he fall far short with only 19.13% and barely ahead of João Correia (PMDB right-wing) who won 18.21%.
Seats: 1 PT, 1 PMN. 2007-2015 term: Tião Viana (PT) will be replaced by Aníbal Diniz (PT)

Alagoas: Not much luck for clean government campaigners in Alagoas, with the election of two rather unsavoury and not too clean figures. Federal deputy Benedito de Lira (PP), an old pro-military stooge and ambulance leeches culprit, surged late in the campaign and won a surprising first place overall with 35.94%. This forced incumbent senator and former President of the Senate Renan Calheiros (PMDB) to take the second seat, with 33.42%. Renan had been forced out of his job after a long scandal, Renangate, in which he was accused of accepting funds from lobbyists to pay an illegitimate daughter he had had with a journalist. Former senator and 2006 presidential candidate Heloísa Helena (PSOL) won only 16.6% in the end, falling far short of a seat.
Seats: 1 PP, 1 PMDB. 2007-2015 term: Fernando Collor (PTB)

Amazonas: The main highlight of this election was the defeat of incumbent senator Arthur Virgílio (PSDB), one of the opposition’s top firebrands and a big critic of Lula’s government. Even though he managed 21.91% in a state where Serra won barely 8%, indicating a big personal vote, he fell in third place behind Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB) who won 22.89% and former governor Eduardo Braga (PMDB) who won an extremely strong 42.07%. Remember, these results add up to 100% but in reality each voter had two votes, so one can estimate that Braga won the votes of 84% of the state’s voters. Another incumbent, Jefferson Praia (PDT) also fell, winning a mere 8.27%, though he was in a weak shape for reelection at the outset.
Seats: 1 PMDB, 1 PCdoB. 2007-2015 term: Alfredo Nascimento (PR)

Amapá: In this not-so-clean race, whose victors could yet change, the big surprise was the big vote for Randolfe Rodrigues (PSOL), who won 38.94% of the votes. Randolfe, a former leader of the painted-faces 1992 Collor impeachment movement, had the support of Lucas Barreto (PTB), who is in first place in the gubernatorial contest, but this coalition won him a disendorsement from the PSOL. In second place, for now, is Gilvam Borges (PMDB), a shady Sarney stooge, who took 23.19%. Former Governor Waldez Goes (PDT), who spent some time in jail recently along with his acolyte and outgoing governor Pedro Paulo (PP), won only 20.45% of the vote and will not win a seat. Votes cast for João Capiberibe (PSB), a Sarney enemy, were disqualified under the Ficha Limpa law (he was deemed dirty in slightly shady circumstances), but if his candidacy is approved, he would be elected in Gilvam Borges’ stead.
Seats: 1 PSOL, 1 PMDB. 2007-2015 term: José Sarney (PMDB)

Bahia: A big red wave in this big Northeastern state carried incumbent senator César Borges (PR), albeit a rebellious ally of Lula, away. Supported by Geddel (PMDB), who broke with the President and the PT, César Borges was trounced with only 13.52% of the votes, leaving him with no chance against the two official left-wing candidates, PT deputy Walter Pinheiro and former Salvador mayor Lídice da Mata (PSB). Walter Pinheiro took 31% while Lídice won 28.90%. Lower down, José Ronaldo (DEM) took a mere 9.33% and his friend Aleluia (DEM) won 8.12%. Geddel ally and former bionic mayor Edvaldo Brito (PTB) won 6.92%.
Seats: 1 PT, 1 PSB. 2007-2015 term: João Durval (PDT)

Ceará: This race almost had me fall off my chair on election night, and many other people likely fell off outright. One of those people who fell off was Senator Tasso Jereissati (PSDB), a well-known tucano and longtime local politician (serving as governor in the past). Considered a shoo-in for re-election by all, the wave carried him away in a big shock. He won 23.70% and distant third, against 36.32% for Eunício Oliveira (PMDB) and José Pimentel (PT) with 32.39%. Alexandre Pereira (PPS) won 6.35%. The defeat of Jereissati is a big win for Lula, very popular in this state, and certainly a shock to many old right-wing Northeastern politicians (though Jereissati was by far the least distasteful of them all).
Seats: 1 PMDB, 1 PT. 2007-2015 term: Inácio Arruda (PCdoB)

In the Federal District, a big win for two left-wingers of various shades. Incumbent senator, former governor and former Lula ally Cristovam Buarque (PDT) was easily reelected with 37.27%. His running mate, Rollemberg (PSB) won 33.03%. Alberto Fraga (DEM) won 22.87%, while votes cast for former governor Maria de Lourdes Abadia (PSDB) were disqualified under the Ficha Limpa law. Even if they’re counted, she doesn’t have enough to wrestle a seat away from the left. 
Seats: 1 PDT, 1 PSB. 2007-2015 term: Gim Argello (PTB)

In Espírito Santo, riding on the wave of Renato Casagrande (PSB), the two top candidates of his coalition won easily. Vice Governor Ricardo Ferraço (PMDB) won 44.55% (which means nearly 90% voted for him) while incumbent senator Magno Malta (PR), a controversial evangelical ex-pastor won 36.76%. A mere 10.74% for Rita Camata (PSDB).
Seats: 1 PMDB, 1 PR. 2007-2015 term: Ana Rita (PT) will replace Renato Casagrande (PSB)

Snooze in Goiás, with two easy wins for the two incumbents (one of two states where both incumbents won reelection). Demóstenes Torres (DEM) won 44.09% while Lúcia Vânia (PSDB) won 30.56%. The PT’s Pedro Wilson won 17.95% and Paulo Roberto Cunha (PP) 4.65%.
Seats: 1 DEM, 1 PSDB. 2007-2015 term: Cyro Giffor (PSDB), suplente for Marconi Perillo (PSDB)

Sarney stooges win big in Maranhão, with incumbent senator Edson Lobão (PMDB), a close ally of the Sarney clan and a former energy and mines minister in Lula’s cabinet, taking 32.74%. His friend (and Sarney clan ally) João Alberto won 29.74%. In very distant third, Zé Reinaldo (PSB), a former governor and former Sarney ally, now aligned with his enemies, won 13.99%. Roberto Rocha (PSDB) won 12.36% and Edson Vidigal (PSDB) won 9.67%.
Seats: 2 PMDB. 2007-2015 term: Epitácio Cafeteira (PTB)

In Mato Grosso, the first seat saw a big win for former governor and soy king Blairo Maggi (PR, declared wealth of US$86 million). He won 37.08% of the votes (and far more raw votes than the winner in the governor’s race). A bit of a surprise for the second seat, which went to Pedro Taques (PDT) with 24.48%. He defeated Maggi’s ally Carlos Abicalil (PT) who won 18.43%. Antero Paes de Barros (PSDB) won only 11.92%. 
Seats: 1 PR, 1 PDT. 2007-2015 term: Jayme Campos (DEM)

In Mato Grosso do Sul, incumbent Senator Delcídio do Amaral (PT) won reelection easily, taking up 34.90%. The second seat, which went to Waldemir Moka (PMDB right-wing) with 23% was a three-way contest. Murilo Zauith (DEM) won 21.61%, followed closely by Dagoberto Nogueira (PDT) who won 20.49%.
Seats: 1 PT, 1 PMDB. 2007-2015 term: Marisa Serrano (PSDB)

Predictable in Minas Gerais, a key senate contest, which produced the expected results. Wildly popular former governor Aécio Neves (PSDB) won easily with 39.47%. In second place, his colleague and former President Itamar Franco (PPS) who wins the second seat with 26.74%. The PT’s Fernando Pimentel had gained speed in the last few days, but his 23.98% were not enough to overtake Itamar. He could have won if his running mate, Zito Vieira (PCdoB) had polled a bit less than 7.76%.
Seats: 1 PSDB, 1 PPS. 2007-2015 term: Eliseu Resende (DEM)

Honesty isn’t a virtue in Pará, where most people (57.24% of them) had their votes invalidated for voting for a candidate whose votes were not counted. Right now, Flexa Ribeiro (PSDB), not too clean himself (he spent a few days in jail already) but cleaner than his friends, wins 67.73% of the valid votes. In second, for now, is Marinor Brito (PSOL) with 27.11%. The final outcomes hinges on whether or not votes cast for Jader Barbalho (PMDB), incumbent federal deputy seeking to recover a senate seat he had resigned from in 2002 following the SUDAM scandal (where he set up fraudulent businesses, such as a frog farm, to launder money for himself), are valid. If they are, he ousts Marinor Brito for the second seat. Paulo Rocha (PT), a mensaleiros crook, also didn’t have his votes counted, but he does not enough to win.
Seats: 1 PSDB, 1 PSOL. 2007-2015 term: Mário Couto (PSDB)

Paraíba‘s final results could also change as a result of a court decision over votes cast for former governor Cássio Cunha Lima (PSDB) are counted. If they are, he would win. The victory of Vitalzinho (PMDB) with 35.37% is assured, but Wilson Santiago (PMDB), with 33.39% would fall if the former governor’s votes are counted. Incumbent senator Efraim Moraes (DEM) won 28.17%.
Seats: 2 PMDB. 2007-2015 term: Cícero Lucena (PSDB)

A big result in Pernambuco with the epic takedown of a big name, Marco Maciel (DEM). Marco Maciel, who has served a total of 18 years in the Senate, 8 years as VP (under Cardoso) and 3 years as governor, has finally lost in a major blow to the old military clique. He lost badly, taking only 11.86%. In first place, Armando Monteiro (PTB left-wing) with 39.87%, who surprisingly outpolled a well-known state cabinet minister in Humberto Costa (PT) who won 38.82%. Given that Armando Monteiro was presented as the man to vote for to get rid of Marco Maciel, people probably loaded his votes on him and propelled him to first place. Raul Jungmann (PPS), Marco Maciel’s ally, won 7.61%. 
Seats: 1 PTB, 1 PT. 2007-2015 term: Jarbas Vasconcelos (PMDB)

Two right-wingers down in Piauí. Former governor Wellington Dias (PT), very popular, won the first seat with 32.52%. In second place, federal deputy Ciro Nogueira Lima Filho (PP), something of a right-winger, who won 22.69%. However, two right-wing incumbents went down. Mão Santa (PSC), thought to be the best positioned of the two, took third with 14.14%. Heráclito Fortes (DEM), another old right-wing clique figure, lost reelection badly taking 13.84%, only managing fourth ahead of Antonio José Medeiros (PT) who won 13.44%.
Seats: 1 PT, 1 PP. 2007-2015 term: João Vicente Claudino (PTB)

In Paraná, a close call for former governor Roberto Requião (PMDB), who squeaked out his seat with 24.84%, placing second behind Gleisi Hoffman (PT) who wins 29.50%. For most of the night, federal deputy Gustavo Fruet (PSDB) trailed in a very close third, with 23.10%, almost enough to take down Requião. Ricardo Barros (PP), allied with Fruet, won 20.22%.
Seats: 1 PT, 1 PMDB. 2007-2015 term: Álvaro Dias (PSDB)

Rio de Janeiro saw an interesting contest in the end. Another of the campaign’s late-surgers, Lindberg Farias (PT), a former UNE student leader, won easily with 28.65%. That means that a key figure in the 1992 Collor impeachment marches will serve alongside Collor himself, best of all supporting the same government. In second, controversial conservative Lula ally, gospel singer and evangelical bishop Marcelo Crivella (PRB) won 22.66%. He was almost taken down by Jorge Picciani (PMDB), Lindberg’s running-mate, who won a surprisingly strong 20.73%. As for César Maia (DEM), the former mayor of Rio and a well-known local politician, who was thought to be a favourite only a few months ago, he wins 11.06%. Waguinho (PTdoB), a singer and ally of Garotinho, took 8.81%.
Seats: 1 PT, 1 PRB. 2007-2015 term: Francisco Dornelles (PP)

Dynasties still rule supreme in Rio Grande do Norte, with easy reelections for the incumbents. Garibaldi Alves Filho (PMDB) won reelection easily with 35.03%. José Agripino Maia (DEM), the other incumbent, took second with 32.23%. In a contest against José Agripino Maia, the cousin of her ex, former governor Wilma de Faria (PSB) took only 21.89% and lost quite badly. Hugo Manso (PT) won 7.53%. With the election of the other senator, Rosalba Ciarlini (DEM) to the governor’s office, her suplente, Garibaldi Alves (PMDB) will join his son in the Senate. Nice family.
Seats: 1 PMDB, 1 DEM. 2007-2015 term: Garibaldi Alves (PMDB) replaces Rosalba Ciarlini (DEM)

In Rondônia, the Ficha Limpa case has been sorted out already in favour of former governor Ivo Cassol (PP), who takes the second seat with 32.34%. Incumbent senator Valdir Raupp (PMDB) wins first, with 34.29%. However, the other incumbent, Fátima Cleide (PT) is defeated, taking 16.05%. Agnaldo Muniz (PSC) won 13.36%.
Seats: 1 PMDB, 1 PP. 2007-2015 term: Acir Gurgacz (PDT)

In Roraima, the pure opportunist Romero Jucá (PMDB), leader of the government in the Senate (who was also leader of the government for Cardoso…) has won reelection with 27.91%. Angela Portela (PT) wins the second seat with 26.15%, she defeats Marluce Pinto (PSDB) who won 21.42%, a personal rival. Marluce Pinto is the widow of former governor Ottomar Pinto (PSDB), who was a distasteful figure and military ally.
Seats: 1 PMDB, 1 PT. 2007-2015 term: Mozarildo Cavalcanti (PTB)

Not much surprise in Rio Grande do Sul, where Germano Rigotto (PMDB right-wing), former governor defeated in 2006, lost another election. He took third with 21.24%. That placed him behind journalist Ana Amélia Lemos (PP) who won 29.54% and also incumbent senator Paulo Paim (PT), who won 33.83%, surprisingly strong showing. Abgail Pereira (PCdoB) won 13.47%.
Seats: 1 PT, 1 PP. 2007-2015 term: Pedro Simon (PMDB)

In Santa Catarina, not much fun. Former governor Luiz Henrique da Silveira (PMDB right-wing) won easily, taking 28.44%. The PSDB’s Paulo Bauer took the second seat with 25.32%, comfortably ahead of Cláudio Vignatti (PT) who polled 19.44% while Hugo Biehl (PP), an ally of Ângela Amin, took 10.35%.
Seats: 1 PMDB, 1 PSDB. 2007-2015 term: Casildo Maldaner (PMDB) will replace Raimundo Colombo (DEM)

Boring stuff in Sergipe as well. Eduardo Amorim (PSC), a federal deputy allied with the left, won 33.65% and the first seat while incumbent Senator Antônio Carlos Valadares (PSB) won 25.62% and the second seat. In third, the PSDB’s Albano Franco won 18.29% and Machado (DEM) won 13.99%.
Seats: 1 PSC, 1 PSB. 2007-2015 term: Maria do Carno Alves (DEM)

A surprising result in São Paulo, with a very surprising easy victory for PSDB federal deputy for Aloysio Nunes, down even in the final polls (though he had surged in the last few days, ever since Quercia dropped out). Aloysio Nunes, in the end, came first, far ahead of the rest, with 30.42%. His election was certainly one of the most surprising moments on election night. For the second seat, former mayor Marta Suplicy (PT) had to fight with popular black singer Netinho de Paula (PCdoB – her running-mate) to get it. She took 22.61%, and Netinho de Paula took 21.14%, meaning that Netinho de Paula, presumed to be on his way to the Senate, lost out narrowly in the end. A very fine and surprising fourth for Ricardo Young (PV), who polled an excellent 11.20% and in the process managed to outpoll incumbent senator Romeu Tuma (PTB right-wing) who won only 10.79%. Romeu Tuma, however, had already been down by a lot in the end and he was a dead man walking (which is perhaps not the best joke ever given that some fake rumour transformed into ‘news’ regarding his alleged death circulated late in the campaign). 
Seats: 1 PSDB, 1 PT. 2007-2015 term: Eduardo Suplicy (PT)

In Tocantins finally, reelection was easy for João Ribeiro (PR) who won 27.96%. In second place, former governor Marcelo Miranda (PMDB) won 25.41%. Vicentinho Alves (PR), allied with Ribeiro, won 24.77% while 21.86% voted for Paulo Mourão (PT).
Seats: 1 PR, 1 PMDB. 2007-2015 term: Kátia Abreu (DEM)

Chamber of Deputies

In the Chamber, the government overall increased its majority to a supermajority of over 60%, which allows it to alter the constitution and pass legislation more easily. The PT overtook the PMDB to form the largest caucus in the Chamber, which places a petista as the likely future President of the Chamber. The leader of the government in the Chamber, Cândido Vaccarezza (PT-SP) is a likely contender.

The Chamber uses a bizarre and bad electoral system in which voters vote for individual candidates, but votes cast for candidates will count towards that candidate’s party/list and it is that party raw vote result (the sum of the votes cast for the party’s different candidates, basically) which is divided by the total number of votes cast to get the party’s quotient in the specific state. Therefore, celebrity candidates are a good deal for parties in Brazil, given that the system is favourable to those kinds of candidates who can draw a lot of votes. Their votes can drag paper candidates lower down on their list into Congress, and despite the uselessness of parties, the more seats a party has, the more leverage it has in Congress (most Brazilian parties are best understood as lobbies) and the more pork and graft it can garner for itself and its members. One of the most atrocious examples of this system is in São Paulo back in 2002, when the small far-right PRONA got 5 seats on the back of over a million votes cast for its popular charismatic leader Eneas, but the party’s other candidates barely had 1,000 votes apiece. However, Eneas’ big vote (in fact, the biggest vote for an individual in any Brazilian congressional election ever) won the party 5 seats, four of which went to people who got very few votes. As a result, you often get candidates with big votes who don’t win because their coalition overall didn’t get enough votes.

As for their likely incompetence, it isn’t much of a worry given that Congress is full of crooks to begin with and that competence has never been a worry for them. Plus, for those in power it’s probably a win-win given that the celebrities are likely not too smart and can easily be bought for anything.

The new makeup of the Chamber, compared to dissolution of the precedent legislature, is as follows:

PT 88 (+9)
PMDB 79 (-11)
PSDB 53 (-6)
DEM 43 (-13)
PP 41 (+1)
PR 41 (nc)
PSB 34 (+7)
PDT 28 (+5)
PTB 21 (-1)
PSC 17 (+1)
PCdoB 15 (+3)
Green 15 (+1)
PPS 12 (-3)
PRB 8 (+1)
PMN 4 (+1)
PSOL 3 (nc)
PTdoB 3 (+2)
PHS 2 (-1)
PRP 2 (+2)
PRTB 2 (+2)
PSL 1 (+1)
PTC 1 (-1)

The Chamber website counts 311 of these as being allied with the government (the parties included in this calculation all officially endorsed Dilma), 111 as being opposition (the traditional right and the PSOL) and a further 91 as independents (the parties included in this calculation supported the Lula government but did not endorse Dilma, aka they’re opportunists with no shame in admitting it).

The general rule in Chamber elections is that a party’s caucus will be 15 more or less than the party’s caucus at dissolution. That rule holds in this election as well.

The Democrats suffered heavily this election, down from 56 at dissolution and 65 in 2006. The ‘Northeast Revolution’ of 2006/2010 has clearly hurt them a lot. Their 2007 attempt to re-invent itself as a modern, David Cameron-imitating right-liberal party flopped epically; given that they’re still mostly old corrupt oligarchs.

The so-called “left block” of the PSB, PDT and PCdoB did well, winning 77 seats overall. With the PT’s 88 seats, this so-called left has 165 seats. However, the balance of power remains in the hand of the fisiológicos, these corrupt opportunistic parties which will support any government. They were heavily involved in the mensalão scandal, and they all supported Lula’s predecessors without any second thoughts. This block, composed of the PMDB, PP, PR and PTB have 182 seats overall. Therefore, if Serra wins, it is not hard to conceive this bulk of 180 some members jumping over the fence to be allied with Serra. A French-style cohabitation would never happen in Brazil.

The Greens won only one seat more than they held at dissolution (and 2 more than in 2006), showing that Marina’s wave was largely confined to the presidential election (though independent PV candidates did decently well for third parties in some senate and gubernatorial races). The PSOL also kept its three seats, including a strong vote for Chico Alencar (PSOL-RJ) in Rio, who took 240,724 votes (second highest vote in the state) and allowed his colleague Jean Wyllys (PSOL-RJ) to win as well, with only 13,018 votes. The PSOL’s deputies are known for being honest and competent deputies, thus their big wins (overall) are not surprising. In the RJ Legislative Assembly, state deputy Marcelo Freixo (PSOL-RJ) was reelected with 177,253 votes, the second highest in the state. Marcelo Freixo is a key enemy of drug cartels and gangs in the state, cartels which have put his head on their “to kill” list.

The top vote getter in 2010 is Tiririca (PR-SP), the clown, who won 1,353,820 votes. He still needs to pass a literacy test before he can actually become a deputy, but his high vote is a good reflection of the use of celebrities by parties, like the PR, to boost their vote. Undoubtedly, Tiririca was a big boost for the PR. Second most voted in Brazil is Anthony Garotinho (PR-RJ) who won 694,862 votes. Garotinho, former governor of Rio, is a big evangelical figure who enjoys attention, staging a hunger strike which he himself later broke because he was hungry (he’s fat, no wonder). He’s also far more of a celebrity than a competent congressman.

Big names elected include 1994 selecão star Romário (PSB-RJ) – in the RJ Legislative Assembly, Bebeto (PDT-RJ), another 1994 star, was also elected. Former goalkeeper Danrlei (PTB-RS) was also elected. Big defeats include former PT president José Genoíno (PT-SP), Senator Serys (PT-MT), and Leonel Brizola’s grandson Brizola Neto (PDT-RJ) was not re-elected.

Overall, 46.4% of the deputies in this legislature are new. That is a unusually high rate, though it was also high in 2006. Congressmen are unpopular in Brazil and people are increasingly angry over corruption scandals involving congressmen, more so than in the past.

Overall, 63 deputies and 3 senators are evangelicals, which as a block makes it the third largest “party” in the Chamber behind only the PT and PMDB. The evangelicals had suffered in 2006 because a lot of their incumbents were in the mensalão, ambulance leeches scandals. They have already announced they would block legislation which goes against “biblical values” like abortion.

Election Preview: Brazil 2010

Brazil’s mega-election, which has received a fair share of attention recently, is tomorrow. While tomorrow is only the first round, it seems likely that all the important races will be determined tomorrow.

My guide to tomorrow’s election includes information on the presidential contest, key downballot races as well as information on the political parties and the country’s political history since the 1800s. Instead of repeating what has been said about the election in the guide, here’s a rundown of the key races to watch tomorrow:

The presidential contest is the big race, but it’s also one of the least interesting. Indeed, the only question which is unanswered about this race is whether Dilma Rousseff (PT), Lula’s handpicked successor, will be crowned in the first round or if she’ll need to wait a few weeks until the runoff to be crowned. However, in the last few days, Dilma’s numbers have come down some while Marina Silva and José Serra’s numbers got a slight boost. One trend noted by Ibope is that evangelicals (20% of the population) are moving away from Dilma towards Marina (an evangelical herself) and Serra after Dilma made comments which could be interpreted as being pro-choice. Marina Silva could likely get one of the best ever results for Greens in the Americas and up there with top European green showings.

Here is a rundown of other races which will be interesting to watch come election day:

Alagoas (Governor): A perfect three-way contest featuring the incumbent Governor, a former Governor and a former President/Governor. The race is too close to call and will end up in a runoff, but it remains to be seen which of the three top contenders will get the spots in the runoff.

Minas Gerais (Governor): Incumbent PSDB governor Antonio Anastasia has surged ahead of the PMDB’s Hélio Costa in recent weeks, and could win the gubernatorial contest of the second most populous state of Brazil by the first round. The race, as noted before, is a contest between the candidates of Brazil’s two most popular politicians: Lula and Governor Aécio Neves.

Paraná (Governor): Polls have showed that the race between two local heavyweights, former mayor Beto Richa (PSDB) and Senator Osmar Dias (PDT) has gotten a lot closer recently. Will Osmar Dias be able to close the gap with Beto Richa in a polarized contest which will likely be decided by the first round?

Pernambuco (Governor): In his 2006 re-election bid, Aécio Neves in MG won 77% of the vote by the first round. Can Eduardo Campus come to beat that score, a feat which would be tremendous considering that his main opponent isn’t a joke paper candidate?

The Senate has a lot of interesting contests shaping up, but one thing to look at nationally is how the parties hold up. The Democrats could be facing a rout of sorts in the Nordeste, where some of their top incumbents are at risk of losing.

Of the 54 seats up for re-election; 14 are held by the PMDB, 10 by the PSDB, 8 by the Democrats, 7 by the PT, 4 by the PDT, 3 by the PR, 2 by the PTB, 2 by the PRB, 1 by the PSOL, 1 by the PV, 1 by the PSC and 1 by the PSB.

Alagoas (Senate): A close contest between former Senator Heloísa Helena (PSOL)  and deputy Benedito de Lira (PP) is shaping up, though Senator Renan Calheiros (PMDB), despite his fall from grace in the 2007 Renangate scandal, does not seem in danger of losing.

Bahia (Senate): You’ve got three main candidates fighting it out for two seats, and it’s really down to the wire. Incumbent Senator César Borges (PR) could lose outright or could fall in second place (and still win) behind either Walter Pinheiro (PT) or Lídice (PSB).

Minas Gerais (Senate): While it isn’t per se a very interesting race, the presence of two heavyweight candidates: former Governor Aécio Neves (PSDB) and former President Itamar Franco (PPS) makes this contest quite interesting. It will be interesting to watch how close the PT’s Fernando Pimentel is able to get to Itamar.

Pernambuco (Senate): The contest hasn’t received as much press as it should, given that a long-time incumbent and old conservative oligarch Marco Maciel (DEM), who is also a former Vice President, could be going down to defeat quickly against two left-wing candidates. Such a defeat would be a significant highlight in the continuing rout of the old conservative oligarchy in the region.

Rio de Janeiro (Senate): Former Rio mayor and old politico César Maia (DEM) was originally the favourite, but he has been the main victim of the PT’s Lindberg Farias late surge. He seems to be on track to lose quite badly, while Lindberg Farias could outpoll incumbent Senator Marcelo Crivella (PRB), a gospel singer and favourite of the evangelical churches.

São Paulo (Senate): Will black singer and TV host Netinho de Paula (PCdoB) outpoll former mayor Marta Suplicy (PT), or will one of them fall behind the PSDB’s Aloysio Nunes, who has gathered strength in the last days of the campaign?

The races for the Chamber of Deputies are way too plentiful for there to be rundown, but things to look out for will be which candidate garners the most votes nationwide (likely a Paulista), which incumbents lose and how the party lines evolve in the Chamber.

Brazilian elections always feature weird candidates, ranging from actual clowns to famous lookalikes to futbol stars to strippers. Such clownish candidates in 2010 include clown Tiririca (PR-SP), Obama Brasil (PTB-SP), Jeferson Camillo (PP-SP) – whose campaign ad shows him about to have sex, tough-on-crime and tough-on-yellow-ducks Delegado Waldir (PSDB-GO), stripper Mulher Melão (PHS-RJ) and gay soldier Claudio Rocha (PCdoB-RJ).