The São Paulo antipetism

Image: Michelle Guimaraes


With the current political scenario and Alckmin's strategy as deputy, anti-PTism may ebb in SP, returning to the pattern of 2002

In the last elections, São Paulo (SP) has been characterized by being a state with an electoral behavior marked by anti-PTism. It is no coincidence that in all the first rounds of presidential disputes held since 1994, totaling 7 elections, in 2002 alone, the PT candidate – Lula at the time – won the dispute in the state. In the second round disputes, we verified the same pattern. Only in 2002, the PT candidate surpassed his opponent. That is, in the last 24 years, we had 14 rounds of electoral disputes for president in SP – 7 in the first round and 7 in the second round – and only two PT victories.

This adverse history of the PT can also be seen in the elections to the Palácio dos Bandeirantes. In addition to never winning the SP government, not even at the height of Lulism (2003-2010), the party only ran in the second round in 2002, when José Genoíno (PT) was defeated by then governor Geraldo Alckmin (at the time affiliated with the PSDB), who ended up being re-elected in that dispute.

In addition to the electoral issue, it is worth remembering that SP was the epicenter of the June 2013 demonstrations, which gradually structured a socially organized right in the country, boosting, from 2015, the protests that led to the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff ( PT). In addition, SP was constituted, in that same period, in the main stronghold, first of the lavajatismo, and later, of Bolsonarismo.

Despite this electoral history with a strong anti-PT bias, the Ipespe poll released last Friday (February 18) shows that today ex-president Lula (PT) leads the race for the Planalto Palace in SP. More than that, Fernando Haddad (PT) also leads the election to Palácio dos Bandeirantes. Based on the numbers shown by the Ipespe survey, can we say that there is an ongoing ebb of anti-PTism in the state? Or not, again in SP will we have a majority vote in opposition to PT candidacies? This is the debate that this article intends to discuss in the next paragraphs.

Returning to the electoral issue, it is important to remember some data from the first round of past presidential elections that reinforce the strength of anti-PTism in SP. In the 1994 elections, FHC (PSDB) had 55,74% of the valid votes in the first round. Lula (PT) was in second place with 28,83%. In 1998, FHC's advantage over Lula was even more expressive: 59,88% against 28,83%. In 2002, Lula was ahead of José Serra (PSDB): 46,11% against 28,52%.

In 2006, the year following the monthly allowance crisis, which led the PT to lose an important part of the support it had among the middle classes in large urban centers, Geraldo Alckmin (then a member of the PSDB) was ahead of Lula in SP: 54,19 % against 36,76%.

In 2010, even with the Lula government having more than 80% of positive evaluation in the country, José Serra beat Dilma Rousseff (PT) in the state: 40,65% to 37,31%. Despite the fact that in 2010 Serra's vote fell in comparison with the performance registered by Alckmin in 2006, from 2014 anti-PT sentiment grew strongly among people from São Paulo. In the first round of the 2014 presidential election, Aécio Neves (PSDB) overcame Dilma Rousseff by 44,22% to 25,82%. And in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro (a member of the PSL at the time) beat Fernando Haddad (PT) by 44,58% to 19,70%.

It should be noted that, from 2010 to 2018, the vote for the PT's main opponent in presidential elections in SP grew from 40,65% to 44,58% in the first round. What draws even more attention is the loss of voters by the PT candidates – Dilma (2010 and 2014) and Haddad (2018). During this period, the party's vote in the first round of presidential elections fell from 37,31% (2010) to 19,70% (2018) in the state.

The same pattern of electoral behavior is observed in the second round presidential disputes in SP. This historical series begins in 2002, because in 1994 and 1998 we did not have a second round because FHC won both elections in the first round. From 2002 to 2018, only once (2002) did a PT candidate win a runoff in the state. In 2002, Lula surpassed Serra (55,38% to 44,61%). In 2006, Geraldo Alckmin defeated Lula (52,26% to 47,73%). In 2010, a new Tucan victory: Serra beat Dilma in the second round (54,03% to 45,94%). As of 2014, the strength of anti-PTism in SP would also become more expressive in the second rounds. In 2014, Aécio beat Dilma by 64,31% to 35,69%. And in 2018, Bolsonaro surpasses Haddad by 67,97% to 32,02%.

It is noted that the performance of the candidates representing the anti-PT camp in the second round jumped from 54,03% (2010) to 67,97% (2018). In that same period, the PT's performance in the second round of the presidential elections in SP had a sharp drop, falling from 45,94% (2010) to 32,03% (2018).

When we look at the pattern of the São Paulo vote in presidential elections, it is noted that the successive defeats of the PT have the anti-PT sentiment as a background. Although the presidential elections have a voting decision process different from the gubernatorial elections, it is also possible to observe an electoral behavior contrary to the PT in the disputes for the Palácio dos Bandeirantes that took place since 1994.

In 1994, the PT candidate, José Dirceu, obtained 14,86% of the valid votes in the first round, not even reaching the second round. In 1998, the performance of the PT candidate – Marta Suplicy at that time – improved. Marta won 22,51%, ranked third and almost made it to the second round. In this dispute, the then governor Mário Covas (PSDB) was in second place in the first round with 22,95% and Paulo Maluf (PPB) won 32,21%. In the second round, the PT's alliance with Mário Covas was decisive for the toucans to defeat Maluf.

In 2002, the PT had its best result in the party's history in an election for the SP government. José Genoíno (PT) won 32,45% of the valid votes, went to the second round, but lost to Geraldo Alckmin (then in the PSDB). It was the first and only time that the PT reached the second round in a dispute for the Palácio dos Bandeirantes.

In 2006, Aloizio Mercadante (PT) scored 31,68% and was in second place. However, the winner is José Serra (PSDB), who is elected in the first round. In 2010, Mercadante is again the PT candidate. He wins 35,23% of the votes in the first round, but is defeated once again in the first round. Who wins is Alckmin, again in the first round, as well as Serra in 2006.

As of 2014, repeating what happened with the performance of PT candidates in the presidential elections, the performance of PT representatives in the gubernatorial elections plummets. In 2014, Alexandre Padilha (PT) got only 18,22% in the first round, taking third place. And in 2018, Luiz Marinho (PT) has an even worse result, winning only 12,66%, getting fourth place.

The vote of PT candidates for the government of SP in the first round drops from 35,23% (2010) to just 12,66% (2018). As this drop in the votes of the PT candidates for governor follows a similar trend to that registered with the votes of the party's presidential candidates in the same period, this is yet another fact that reinforces a vote guided by anti-PTism in the state.

Remembering this historical series is important for the central debate that this article proposes. Even with the strength of anti-PTism in the largest electoral college in the country, the Ipespe poll released last Friday (18), showed Lula leading the race for the Planalto Palace among São Paulo.

The same occurs with Fernando Haddad in the election for governor of SP. Despite Haddad sharing the leadership of the state succession with former governors Geraldo Alckmin (No party) and Márcio França (PSB), as they must be allies in SP and the candidate must be Haddad, the following question arises: anti-PTism ebbed in SP, returning to the pattern of 2002, when Lula won the presidential election in the State and the PT, through Genoíno's candidacy, reached the second round in the dispute for the Palácio dos Bandeirantes?

Looking first at the 2022 presidential scenario in the light of Ipespe numbers, we have the following scenario: considering only valid votes – excluding white, null and undecided votes – Lula has 39,53%. President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) registers 30,23%. Former minister Sergio Moro (Podemos) appears with 12,79%. Also former Minister Ciro Gomes (PDT) adds up to 8,13%. And the governor of SP, João Doria (PSDB), has 5,81%.

Although the valid vote that Lula would have today (39,53%) is lower than the one that the former president had, for example, in the first round of 2002 in SP (46,11%), we have, at this moment, a recovery of the vote in the PT in presidential elections in the state led by the former president. Compared to 2018, when Haddad had only 19,70%, for example, Lula today has about 20 percentage points more than the one obtained by Haddad four years ago. The main exponent of anti-PTism in the country, Jair Bolsonaro, who obtained 44,58% in the first round of 2018, now drops to 30,23%.

The recovery of the lost electorate by the PT, through Lula, is even clearer in the simulations of the second round. According to Ipespe data, Lula would have 57,50% of the valid votes in a hypothetical second round against Bolsonaro, who registers 42,50% in the simulation. Comparing these numbers with 2018, Lula's vote in relation to Haddad practically doubles (32,02% to 57,50%) in SP, while Bolsonaro's falls from 67,97% to 42,50%.

Do these partial numbers from Ipespe indicate that anti-PTism has lost strength in SP? Momentarily yes. Although in the simulation of the first round of the presidential elections, Bolsonaro, Moro and Doria add up to 48,83% of the valid votes, showing that anti-PTism, even though it is a less noisy social force than in 2018, still has electoral support, for now, the antibolsonarism supplants antipetismo in the electoral preference of the country and also among paulistas.

According to Ipespe, the negative assessment (bad/terrible) of the Bolsonaro government is 56%. The positive rating (excellent/good) is 22%. And the regular index adds up to 19%. It is worth noting that the government's negative assessment (56%) is proportional to the valid vote that Lula would have today (57%) in a possible second round against Bolsonaro.

This ebb of anti-PTism is also registered when we observe the Ipespe survey for Palácio dos Bandeirantes. Even though he was a mayor of SP poorly evaluated by public opinion in São Paulo, having not even reached the second round in the 2016 elections, when João Doria (PSDB) was elected mayor, and registering a poor performance against Bolsonaro in the state in 2018, Fernando Haddad leads all simulations in which your name appears as a pre-candidate for governor with percentages ranging from 20% to 33% of the voting intentions, depending on the scenario.

What most calls attention in this Ipespe poll on the dispute for the Palácio dos Bandeirantes is that Fernando Haddad, associated with Lula and Geraldo Alckmin, reaches 38% of the voting intentions. Tarcísio de Freitas, associated with Jair Bolsonaro, has 25%. And Rodrigo Garcia, associated with João Doria, accounts for 10%. And we still have 27% of voters “without a candidate” (white, null and undecided) in this simulation.

Although Geraldo Alckmin has not increased the intentions to vote for Lula in the country at this moment, the former governor plays a fundamental role in the alliance that is being built: being the guarantor of the PT together with the portion of the electorate, mainly in SP, which is not definitely averse to the party, but has distanced itself from the party and the PT candidates for president and governor since the 2005 monthly monthly crisis.

The symbology of the Lula-Alckmin alliance, which should be made official by March, has still not been correctly interpreted by a significant part of the political world and analysts of the national scene. The Lula-Alckmin composition has the power, for example, to open the doors to the construction of a national unity candidacy, with important repercussions in many states, as is the case of SP, which functions as a broad anti-Bolsonarist front.

It is no coincidence that in his speeches, Lula has defended Alckmin and declared that his vice-president will function as “a counterpoint to the PT”. That is, aware of the strength of anti-PTism, especially in SP, it is Lula himself who, based on an alliance with a historic opponent from the past, proposes a counterpoint to his own party.

The idea behind this is the viability of a candidacy for national unity, which will present itself with a proposal for the reconstruction of the country. Based on this concept of national reconstruction, Lula, from the point of view of electoral strategy and his political positioning, seeks to depolarize the political scenario.

For all these reasons, the Lula-Alckmin alliance is the great strategic move of the presidential succession so far, insofar as it pushes Lula to the center, makes it difficult to build a third way option and isolates Bolsonarism in its niche that varies from 25% to 30%. Through this depolarization, Lula prevents Bolsonaro from re-editing the 2018 strategy centered, among other aspects, on the PT debate against anti-PTism.

The composition with Geraldo Alckmin is electorally so efficient that, even in SP, the former governor, alongside Lula, manages to leverage Haddad to levels of voting intentions that a PT candidate for governor did not even have during the peak of the PT governments. in the country.

The dimension of this electoral strategy has not yet been perceived by PT opponents – both in the country and in SP – who are trying to build an anti-PT narrative anchored in a supposedly radical leftist agenda to reach a non-existent opponent on the board, since Lula and Haddad embraced an agenda of national unity via the breadth of political forces.

Returning to the central theme of this article: can we then say that, in fact, anti-PTism has ebbed in SP and PT candidates for president and governor will have a performance similar to or equal to 2002? At the moment, we have indications that this may happen. There are two factors that exert a strong influence on this: the negative assessment of the Jair Bolsonaro government, mainly the economic situation, and the erosion of the PSDB in SP.

However, given the electoral history and the strength of anti-PTism in SP, this phenomenon should not be underestimated. With about eight months left for the elections, changes in the scenario may occur. As we stated earlier, at this moment, conjunctural aspects such as the wear and tear of Bolsonaro and the PSDB in the state end up overlapping the structural pattern of voting oriented by anti-PTism in SP.

If this paradigm is not changed, Lula, after repeating his 2002 performance in SP, will be closer to the Planalto Palace, especially if he repeats the historic vote for Lulism in the Northeast, which revolves around 60% of the valid votes.

At this juncture, there is still room for the PT to win, through the nationalization of the state debate, the dispute for Palácio dos Bandeirantes, especially if Haddad runs a campaign associated with Lula and Alckmin. On the other hand, if anti-PTism prevails, as in 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018, the national election will be more balanced and both Lula and Haddad will have a tighter election, especially in SP.

*Carlos Eduardo Bellini Borenstein holds a degree in political science from ULBRA-RS.


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