The “Indomitable Shores” of Democracy

Image: Cyrus Saurius


Looking at the electoral scenario with the ruler less adjusted to the gross proportions of the electoral results, we see important advances of the “indomitable margins” as an announcement of new horizons for democracy

Anthropologist Anna Tsing, a professor at the University of California, in an article[I] very interestingly, it talks about a zone of human experience that is located on the margins of the empire, on the border between the forest and the monoculture latifundia. Where ostensive planting ends and the forest begins, according to the author, a context is configured in which the parameters of patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalist imperialism and human exceptionalism (the belief that humanity is an exceptional species) cease to apply , rather than being one among others). These structures are suspended and horizons are opened for other possibilities of social life. These are the shores that do not allow themselves to be domesticated, inhabited by fungi, species that are both companions and enemies of monoculture. It is not a strictly spatial zone. These margins also express socio-political experiences. They can be at the heart of large urban centers, where insubordination grows, the denial of hierarchies, the possibility of existences without empire.

These insurgencies are rarely presented triumphalistically. They are manifested by their duration, by their ability to continue to exist in spite of annihilating forces. The recent municipal elections in Brazil drew attention to the advance of sectors of the traditional right and the elites. But on the margins of the dominant power structures, effective democratic forces also grew. They were minority steps towards institutional power, but they express much broader mobilization and organization processes than the electoral results translate. The current of human effort (to use the beautiful image created by Raduan Nassar[ii]) necessary to elect a black female councilor is nothing compared to the lazy reproduction of power promoted by capital accumulation. It is therefore necessary to better calibrate the instruments of political analysis to more accurately assess the true dynamics of power. It's not just WhatsApp and condensed milk bread that politics is made, even in strange times when fascism knocks on the door. Looking at the electoral scenario with the ruler less adjusted to the gross proportions of the electoral results, we see important advances of the “indomitable margins” as an announcement of new horizons for democracy.

The Argument for Breach of Fundamental Precept No. 738[iii] established that the 2020 election should implement quotas for blacks and browns as a way to correct the scandalous distortion of our representative system[iv]. The Federal Supreme Court thus determined the application of quotas in municipal elections this year, as an incentive for candidacies of black people. Obviously, these quotas do not change the power profile all at once and we do not intend to analyze the impacts of this measure here. Perhaps, however, there are two more significant immediate effects that do not immediately translate into electoral results: the promotion of public debate on the issue, in the first place, and the constraint on power structures, in the second.

The average profile of mayors elected in the 1st round, however, followed the dominant patterns: male, white, married, with higher education and over 49 years old[v]. Right-wing and center-right parties are the ones that most concentrate power in these elections. But when it comes to councilors, we will have municipal legislative houses with a greater presence of black people. According to Gender Numbers (2020), adding the seats of all 25 capitals that elected their chambers, 44% will be occupied by black people.

More than fifty quilombolas were elected in Brazil, including mayors, deputy mayors and councilors[vi]. Brazil had 2.205 indigenous candidates in the 2020 elections considering all positions. An increase of 29% compared to previous elections. Most of them were in the North Region (927), followed by the Northeast (507), Midwest (366), South (239) and Southeast (167) regions. And there were eight indigenous people who were elected to mayoralties in the 1st round. In this sense, the number of indigenous people elected to city halls has increased compared to the 2016 elections, but the result still represents the command of only 0,14% of the total number of Brazilian cities. Much remains to be done. Both in the case of the indigenous and the quilombolas, the results should not be considered only from the point of view of electoral success, but from a long-term perspective. It is significant that in the context of the advance of authoritarianism and the stability of the power of the traditional right, the field of disputes on the part of traditional peoples has not retracted.

Women made progress in conquering institutional spaces in the 2020 municipal elections, but faced greater difficulties than men in the process. In this sense, in addition to the quota of 30% of female candidacies, it was the first time that the new rules for the reserve of at least 30% of electoral and party funds and the application of the same percentage to the time of free electoral propaganda came into force. on radio and television for women, with the obligation of parties to publicize these candidacies. One of the problems was the fact that the parties did not allocate that 30% of the electoral fund to female candidates.

According to the Senate agency, there was a record record of female candidacies in 2020 in the dispute for city halls and city councils. The total number of women elected and re-elected also grew. Official data show that 12,2% of city halls were elected by women. In the 2016 election, this number was 11,57%. According to the Electoral Justice, in this year's election women represent 33,6% of the total of 557.389 candidacies, surpassing the highest index of the last three elections, which did not exceed 32%[vii].

But there are important specificities to point out. On the one hand, the territorial issue and, on the other, the type of position disputed. In this sense, in territorial terms, for example, the female representation in the Belo Horizonte City Council went from four councilors to eleven, but they will still be only 26,83% of the composition of the house – the percentage more than doubled in relation to the current legislature (2017-2020), in which they were 9,76% of the composition. Porto Alegre will be the capital with the highest female representation in the City Council: 11 of the 36 vacancies will be occupied by women (30,55%). At the other end of the ranking is João Pessoa, with only 1 of the 27 seats to be occupied by a woman, which represents 3,7% of the total. Another example was Florianópolis, Santa Catarina. In the words of activist Lola Aronovich who celebrated the vote in the unprecedented achievement in the elections: “Important: in Florianopolis' 300-year history, only seven women have been elected. But now in 2020, five councilors have been elected! Historic! Two are openly feminist, anti-capitalist and anti-racist. The Bemviver Collective (Psol), with black and indigenous people, was elected!”.

With regard to the position in dispute, the situation changes. In only six capitals (Aracaju, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Recife and Rio Branco), women ranked first among elected councilors.

According to data from the Superior Electoral Court, more than 900 cities in the country (16% of the total) did not elect any female councilor in this year's elections and, therefore, will not have any woman occupying a vacancy in the Municipal Chambers from 2021. thousand cities (1800% of the total), only one woman was elected[viii]. Let us remember, based on the legislative requirement for parties to have a third of women on the plates, another fact is worrying and must be analyzed. In the last elections, more than 5 candidates did not receive a single vote.[ix]. Of all these zero candidacies, women represent two thirds of the total. Thus, women account for 65% of the total 'zero' candidacies, which may be orange candidacies, or aligned with other illegalities, or simply candidacies without the transfer of funds to fulfill the legal requirement.

There are also important dimensions to highlight in these elections. A very important one: the widow of Marielle Franco, Mônica Benício was elected councilor in Rio by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) with 22919 votes. The setback of the Bolsonaro(s) in Rio was accompanied by the excellent election of candidates and candidates who defend Marielle's agenda. In Rio, 3 parties reached 7 councilors each: Democrats, PSOL and Republicans, being the ones that will have the largest benches. Perhaps an interesting sign is that in Rio, the most voted councilor was Tarcísio Motta, from PSOL. A party that has a history of fighting the militias and that received significant votes even with these criminal groups dominating much of the city's territory[X].

The 2020 municipal elections, moreover, entered the history of LGBT+ movements in Brazil. The country broke a record for pre-candidates who declare themselves to belong to the community. There are at least 435 LGBT+ names that disputed the election in November, according to a survey by the National LGBT+ Alliance. Preliminary survey carried out by LGBTI+ entities points out that at least 25 candidates who identify as transgender, bisexual, gay or lesbian were elected councilors[xi]. The first trans woman to be elected to the Aracaju City Council, Linda Brasil (PSOL) was the most voted among all those elected in the capital of Sergipe. The trans teacher Duda Salabert (PDT) was elected councilor in Belo Horizonte. Three other trans women also won a seat on the City Council: Benny Briolli (PSOL), in Niterói (RJ), Lins Roballo (PT), in São Borja (RS), and Regininha (PT), in Rio Grande. At least four trans will be alternates.

The presence of black men and women, LGBT+ people, quilombolas and indigenous people in these municipal elections is a fundamental dimension of demonstrating the power of mobilization of popular forces. Seventy-four years after Enedina Alves Marques, a black woman from Curitiba, graduated as the first female civil engineer in Brazil, the city elected its first black councilor in history, with 8.407 votes. Carol Dartora (PT) was the third most voted candidate in the capital of Paraná: “We elected the first black councilwoman in Curitiba, a city that rejects its blackness and that will now darken its Chamber!”, in Carol’s own words[xii]. In São Paulo, the most voted woman for the Chamber of Councilors is transsexual: Erika Hilton (PSOL) obtained 50.447 votes. On Twitter, she celebrated sixth place among the top ten in the city of São Paulo: “Black and trans woman elected the most voted councilwoman in the city! Feminist, anti-racist, LGBT and PSOL. The first in history! With more than 50 thousand votes. Thanks!".

We consider that it is important to consider these advances having as a parameter not the comparison with the performance of the hegemonic forces, but as an announcement of what will come, from the margins. Symbols are the source of utopias and paths. And the symbols of resistance of the last elections exist, they are many, and they extend on the national scene.

* André Rodrigues is professor of political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

*Andres Del Rio is professor of political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).




[ii] NASSAR, Raduan. (2016), Complete work. Sao Paulo: Company of Letters. P. 399.

[iii] Instrument in which civil society can question the Supreme Electoral Court, through Congress, about non-compliance with a constitutional parameter by the powers, demanding measures in this regard.

[iv] VIEW; and


[vi] Ver







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