Political participation in recent Brazil

Image: Mohamed Abdelsadig


The voter perceives that, in the various electoral spheres, the interests at stake are different: the higher the election level, the more strategic the interests

Taking advantage of the publication of the collection of information from the IBGE regarding political-electoral participation, I will present some brief considerations on some of these data.

In 2022, the voter community in Brazil registers 155.756.933, spread over 494.659 polling stations, with an average of 315 voters per polling station. Generally, these 315 voters have a neighborhood relationship and social affinities (class, region, ethnicity, family), which allows them, given their limited size, the experience of informal self-government, to manage or influence everyday problems, such as cleaning the square, garbage collection, security, street lighting and other common issues.

Although this spontaneous experience of participation is conditioned by the institutions and norms of the Brazilian State (municipality, state and federation), under the hegemony of the most powerful class, region and ethnicity, it remains an achievable promise of overcoming the social division of today in an authentic community of shared values ​​and interests.

The process of political participation is produced by the relationship between me and another. A we is distinguished by the solidarity of values ​​common to individuals; such values ​​serve as a measure of individual differentiations, in such a way that they do not become exaggerated, disproportionate, disharmonious. This we functions, therefore, as a condition for the specialization of the me and the other. Evidently, the we can only exist, in an authentic way, in the spheres of both the primordial collectivity and the social class, and not in the field of the total collectivity divided by antagonistic values, such as the opposition of capital and salaried work.

The division of social work – productive, reproductive, symbolic functions – gives rise to different forms of participation. From the similarities or differences in functions performed by individuals, affinities arise, which determine common objectives and associative solidarities. At the same time, the association sees a competition for leadership and for the prevalence of particular points of view in the global interest of the association, both in the micro-social field (family, friendship) and in the macro-social field (work group, global community). .

Political participation, from the simplest to the most complex groupings, is thus marked by ties of solidarity and competition. The limit of competition, within the association, will be that of not questioning its basic values, of maintaining respect for the historical type of social reciprocity.

Extrapolating this limit gives rise to another historical pattern of the participants' relationship, namely, antagonism. Here there is not only a dispute for hegemony, the generalization of interests within the historical type of association, but rather the struggle for the definition of the type as such, that is, the change or preservation of the associative model.

In the context of “free” voting, voters tend to have different expectations, depending on the sphere of the election, resulting in a “mixing” of party options. In the 2022 election, while the Workers' Party (PT), which obtained the most votes for president, elected 04 senators and 69 federal deputies; the Liberal Party (PL), whose presidential candidate was defeated in the election, registered 08 senators and 99 federal deputies.

The voter also perceives that, in the various electoral spheres, the interests at stake are different: the higher the election level, the more strategic the interests. The analysis of blank votes attests to the difference in expectations. In general, the rate of blank votes – which may denote an attitude of indifference on the part of voters – is higher in subnational elections than in national elections.

In 2022, the blank votes for governor in the states of São Paulo (Southeast) and Piauí (Northeast) were, respectively, 6,06% and 2,56% of the total turnout; while for president they represented 2,10% and 0,92%. The voter's less demanding posture is therefore, contrary to what common sense indicates, more for the subnational sphere than for the national one.

From the point of view of the executive/legislative split, it is known that the legislative apparatuses are more vulnerable to utilitarian voting and, therefore, to floating voting. A study on voting in the city of Rio de Janeiro suggested two conditions for this greater vulnerability of legislative positions (GAY, 1990).

The first finds that legislative candidates have less access to the media and other political party forums than executive candidates. The second observes that legislative positions require fewer votes than executive positions, making the utilitarian strategy more viable for the first sector. It is possible to add a third element: for voters, the role of the legislature is less evident, compared to the visibility of the executive's tasks.

Finally, in 2022, the PT regained the position of president of the republic, which it had lost in 2018; it was, therefore, a prospective choice of the electorate. In this context, the party's total of state deputies, the position most sensitive to floating votes, increased from 83 to 115, representing an increase of 38% (for an expansion of 5% of the electorate).

Differently, in 2010, the party won the third term for president of the country, in a retrospective choice, therefore, by the voters. In this case, the caucus of state deputies had grown from 109 to 144, indicating a gain of 24,3% (over a 7,3% increase in total voters).

We can ask whether the higher growth rate of the floating vote in the party in 2022 would be a symptom of the decline in anti-PT sentiment that marked the political crisis in the country.

* Francisco Pereira de Farias He is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Piauí. Author, among other books, of Reflections on the political theory of the young Poulantzas (1968-1974) (anti-capital fights).


GAY, Robert. Community organization and clientelist politics in contemporary Brazil: a case study from suburban Rio de Janeiro. International journal of urban and regional research, v. 14, no. 4, p. 648-666, 1990.

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