Military in municipal elections

Image: Anselmo Pessoa


The candidacies of the military (police and the FFAA) represent the failure of the State and the government to deal with the problem of violence and crime

The 2020 elections will have a significant number of self-styled military candidacies, that is, coming from the candidates, either from the state military police or from the Armed Forces, mainly the Army. This phenomenon, this growth, is more pronounced in candidacies for mayoralty, but it is also visible in candidacies for the Chamber of Councillors. The growth of self-appointed military candidates has been taking place for some time. It appeared more clearly in 2014, in the national elections, and definitely entered the Brazilian political analysis in the 2018 elections. So, the evolution continues towards growth and now, in the 2020 elections, a very expressive growth.

Existing measurements underestimate the effective number of candidates because they only call military candidates those who name themselves, in their name. We do not know among those who do not call themselves military whether or not they belong to a corporation. So it is a very important and decisive process in the democracy of a country, because we are defining, Brazilian society, in fact, is saying that military corporations – whether police, or the Armed Forces – are loci of political socialization. On the other hand, they are also a source of thinking about public policies to deal with the problem of violence and crime. So we have two vital questions surrounding the growth of self-styled military candidacies.

First, political socialization. When we think of democracy, we think of classic places of political organization for negotiation. Trade unions are business associations, student movements, social movements, interest groups. They are businessmen, workers, the liberal middle classes, who come from student movements, whether on the left or on the right. So we have these traditional places of socialization, the place from which the leaders who were part of society start to seek political posts.

What we are seeing in Brazil is that the loci main source of political socialization has been shifted, or is being shifted, to state corporations. Let's talk about the military here, but it could be from other places. But it is distorted from the democratic point of view, because the corporation of the State, which has a monopoly on the use of violence, which is based on hierarchy, on discipline, has little to do with the nature of democratic political work, which is negotiation, negotiation of differences, which is inherent to the social process, the conflict of interests, the conflict of values, coexistence with the different. So, as loci of political socialization this is very problematic for the democratic process, this needs to be thought about very carefully, hard, and then think about institutional reforms and government policies aimed at this problem.

The second problem has to do with the origin. Why does society demand soldiers to represent them, whether in legislative bodies or in executive bodies? Of course it has to do with the problem of violence and crime. Because the message that a self-styled military candidacy conveys to society is that it will represent and respond to, put on the agenda, not remove, the problem of crime. The answer that the State has to give to the crime.

But the candidacies of the military (police and Armed Forces) actually represent the failure of the State and the government to deal with the problem of violence and crime. And it is the deepening of this bankruptcy, it is a paradox. Because in fact the answer that we know needs to be given to the problem of violence and crime, the important Brazilian pathologies, but not only, but in Brazil, one of the most violent places in the world, Brazilian cities are among the most violent cities of the world. This problem of violence and criminality is linked to the social problem of inclusion and inequality, associated with drug trafficking, associated with arms trafficking.

An armed and very unequal society. This combination is explosive and leads to the chronic problem of violence. We know that the problem of arms trafficking is related to the lack of control that the police and the Army have over their raw material, over their basic equipment, so its origin is there. So there is a potential conflict of interest in these candidacies in the responses they will give to the problem.

And the problem of inequality, another element, another variation, in this explosive combination. Inequality cannot be fought with state violence or repression. Inequality is fought with public policies of inclusion, which include a security policy, a well-implemented law and order policy, not even thought of, but not only. And actually what society is doing by producing these candidacies and by voting for these candidacies is a reductionism that will generate more problems, which will further widen the gap, which will only increase the paradox.

So I wanted to make this reflection on the phenomenon that is repeated in the significant growth of the contingent of military running for public office. I think it is a symptom of the inability of the Brazilian State and government to deal with the issue of inequality and it is a symptom of the failure of the security forces themselves. So I think that the military elites themselves need to think about the way they relate to politics and encourage people who are entering corporations to enter their careers.

* Fabiano Santos He is a professor at the Institute of Social and Political Studies at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (IESP-UERJ), where he coordinates the Center for Studies on Congress (NECON).

Originally published on 2020 Election Observatory of the Institute of Democracy and Democratization of Communication (INCT/IDDC).

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