Municipal elections – the challenge of the left

Image: Paulinho Fluxuz_


If the left remains fragmented for the next elections, it will be impossible to regain the presidency of the Republic.

Once the votes have been counted and the statistical surveys carried out, all political analysts move on to the assessment phase of the first round of municipal elections, which took place on November 15th. The election brings evidence of a reconfiguration of Brazilian politics and demonstrates a different scenario from the national election of 2018.

In the first place, it can be said that there is a consensus that President Jair Bolsonaro and his camp, “Bolsonarism”, were defeated at the polls. Candidates who had explicit support from Bolsonaro had a poor performance and were left out of the second round of the capitals. The best example is candidate Celso Russomano for mayor of São Paulo. According to the Datafolha research institute, he had, on October 08, 33% of the voting intentions. It dropped to 23% (25/10), 18% (08/11), 15% (11/11) and 13% (14/11). After counting the votes, he had 10,50% and suffered his third defeat.

The difference in the current election was having pasted his image to the figure of Bolsonaro and believed that this would guarantee victory. On the contrary, Bolsonaro's support caused the candidate Russomano to have this accelerated drop in the polls given the growing rejection of the President of the Republic. The president's support was so insignificant that even candidates for councilor who received his public support were not elected. Bolsonaro reached the ridiculous point of deleting support on his social networks to distance himself from the defeated.

The two major exceptions to this negative wave for Bolsonaro are the election of his son, Carlos Bolsonaro, as the second most voted councilor in the city of Rio de Janeiro and the arrival of his candidate for mayor in the same city in the second round. But without high hopes. Marcelo Crivella (Republicans), current mayor, should be easily defeated by former mayor Eduardo Paes (DEM).

The second consensus is that the so-called Centrão, parties of the right and center-right, little ideological and physiological, always linked in some way to the governments, are the big winners of the election. Parties such as PP, DEM, PSD, Republicans and Podemos had a significant gain in the number of councilors, elected mayors in the first round in the capitals: Alexandre Kalil (PSD), in Belo Horizonte, with 63% of the votes in the capital of the second electoral college from the country; Bruno Reis (DEM), in Salvador, with 64% of the votes in the fourth largest electoral college; Rafael Greca (DEM), in Curitiba, with 59% of the votes; and Gean Loureiro (DEM), in Florianópolis, with 53% of the votes. In addition, this Centrão field will compete in the second round in almost all other capitals.

The DEM, which held the vice-presidency of the Republic between 1994 and 2002, in the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and which in the last elections had suffered heavy defeats, having survived only in Bahia, seems to be reborn from the ashes. It won important cities in the first round and should take Rio de Janeiro in the second. Even without a name of national expression, he could play an important role in the 2022 elections.

On the other hand, the PSDB, which governed Brazil with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, governs the State of São Paulo for 26 consecutive years and almost won the 2014 presidential election, polarizing with the PT until then, seems to suffer from wear and tear or, at least , a stagnation. This is because, if we disregard the State of São Paulo, the party won or is in the second round in smaller capitals, such as Palmas, Natal, Porto Velho and Teresina. In addition, it lost almost 1.000 councilors, compared to the 2016 election. It is an increasingly São Paulo party.

And the lefts? The use of the plural is very current. The fragmentation of the Brazilian left is enormous and has an impact on the electoral results obtained. Compared to the electoral tragedy of 2018, the results of 2016 show a slight improvement. But these results were different for the main parties of the left field and the fragmentation made better votes unfeasible.

The PT has shrunk in size, but it will survive. Loses 150 councilors, runs the risk of not governing any capital – his only real chance is in Recife, with Marília Arraes – and was left out of the second round of the city of São Paulo for the first time, since he elected its first mayor in the city , Luiza Erundina, in 1988. The PC do B suffers a hard defeat: it went from 81 to 45 mayors across the country and lost 315 councillors, failing to elect councilors in important cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. His last hope is, in the second round, to win and govern a capital, the city of Porto Alegre, with the young leader Manuela D´Ávila. The PSB and the PDT also had a drop in the number of mayors and councilors.

The best relative performance on the left is Psol. The party had councilors among the most voted in several cities, increasing its presence in municipal legislatures – 6 councilors in São Paulo and 7 councilors in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, he will probably win in the capital of Pará, Belém, and dispute São Paulo with his former presidential candidate, Guilherme Boulos. If it wins in São Paulo, the Psol will rival the PT on the national political scene.

Regarding fragmentation, the best example is Rio de Janeiro. The left was left out of the second round and its candidates (PDT, PT and Psol) had 25,81% of the votes against 21,90% for the second place. Without the innocence of believing in this simple mathematical account, the fact is that if the candidate had been Federal Deputy Marcelo Freixo, from Psol, who almost won the 2016 elections, with the support of the PT, PC do B, PSB and PDT, the left would certainly be in a position to govern Rio.

Traditionally, in Brazil, municipal elections are considered by political analysts as a thermometer for the national election of President, Governors, Senators and Deputies. Even presenting local aspects, the elections of mayors and councilors configure the support network and demonstrate trends in the electorate. So what to expect from 2022?

If the left remains fragmented for the next elections, it will be impossible to regain the presidency of the Republic. What's more, affected by the barrier clause linked to electoral performance, some parties may disappear, since it is legally impossible to form a party front to shelter them.

The only solution is to agree on a political program and the aggregation around a viable candidacy. Brazilian voters seem to have signaled with Sunday's elections that they can make peace with the progressive camp and that they are tired of Bolsonaro. But, maintaining the fragmentation, the most likely thing is that he will place his hopes at the polls in 2022 in a centrist candidate, above the Brazilian political polarization of recent years.

*Renato Soares Bastos He is a lawyer and holds a master's degree in economic history from USP.

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