election hangover

Image: Ricardo Kobayaski


In the second round, a large segment of the population reiterated its irremediable dissatisfaction with the political system

As soon as the electoral results were counted, the illusion that it would be possible to face the capital's offensive through elections was frustrated once again. The second round of the 2020 municipal elections confirmed the two fundamental trends of the first round: a) the institutional legitimization of the coup against the labor and social rights of the working class; and, contradictorily, b) the deepening of the crisis of legitimacy that inexorably shakes the political system that sustains the New Republic.

The neoliberal right – PSDB, MDB and DEM – and the physiological right – the parties that make up the Centrão – expanded their presence in municipal executives and began to command city halls that congregate about three quarters of the Brazilian population.[I] The parties originating from the former ARENA, the parliamentary support base of the military dictatorship, were the ones that made the most progress – in a clear victory for the reactionary forces that defend an authoritarian solution that operates from within the debased institutions of the New Republic.

Bolsonaro’s political defeat was deepened. Of the candidates for mayoralty in the capitals publicly supported by the president, only Rio Branco was elected. Even so, overall, the openly authoritarian and anti-communist right – not necessarily Bolsonarist – significantly increased its presence in municipal executives, governing cities that represent more than 7% of the national population – 60% higher than the population of city halls under control of the left of the order – PT, PCdoB and PSOL.

The result of the second round of elections further reinforced the PT's political decadence. Of the fifteen city halls disputed last Sunday, the party won only four, all in smaller cities. With the defeat in Recife and Vitória, the PT will not govern any of the capitals, for the first time in decades. Considering the two rounds, the party lost 71 city halls in 2020 compared to 2016.

The erosion of Lula's party was capitalized by the PSOL. However, in the absence of a broadening of the electorate, the aggregate result was equivalent to a zero-sum game. Despite the devastating effects of the health, economic and social crisis, the left of order was unable to capitalize on the huge discontent of the population in votes. This fact is evident in the surprising similarity between the proportion of valid votes obtained by Bolsonaro and Haddad in the 2018 presidential election in the city of São Paulo – 60,4% x 39,6% – and the vote for Covas and Boulos in the second round of the 2020 election – 59,4% x 40,6%.

In the second round, a large segment of the population reiterated its irremediable discontent with the political system. More than 38% of the total national electorate abstained from voting or voted null or blank - the highest rate on record in the New Republic. In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, voters who rejected the alternatives presented by the political system greatly outnumbered the votes given to elected mayors, accounting for 46,4% and 41% of total voters, respectively.

The electoral enthusiasm that boosted Edmilson Rodrigues's victory in Belém and that led to Guilherme Boulos's lively campaign in São Paulo, especially among a significant number of young people, placed PSOL as a rising star. The more general scenario is, however, extraordinarily adverse. The left is cornered and the political system is in ruins.

Without getting rid of the dead weight of a status quo historically condemned, the party is in danger of dying on the beach. The electoral advance of the right, especially the ultra-right, and the increase in abstentions and null and blank votes necessarily imply electoral stagnation for the left and center-left. In the absence of a project for the future, which puts the need for large-scale structural changes on the agenda, the PSOL is doomed to repeat the tragedy as a farce and pass into history as a supporting actor in an announced catastrophe.

The lack of dialogue with workers who seek an anti-systemic alternative to the New Republic crisis leaves the way open for the consolidation of the liberal-authoritarian solution to the national crisis, inside or outside the order. This is what has been conditioning the political struggle in Brazil since 2013, when the June Days highlighted the failure of the New Republic and the bourgeoisie, faced with the end of social peace, saw the need to recycle the counterrevolution that blocks any initiative for change. structural.

At the risk of political suicide, the workers cannot throw all their chips into the electoral path as an antidote to the liberal-authoritarian offensive. Without social struggle and civil disobedience, articulated by a project of social transformation, participation in the electoral game is a sterile expedient that only legitimizes a ritual of marked cards.

It is past time to talk seriously with the working class and put on the agenda the urgency of the democratic revolution, from a socialist perspective, as the only alternative to the installed capitalist barbarism. Merging with workers' struggles, fostering class self-organization and defending the need for anti-capitalist solutions are the strategic tasks of the historic moment.

* Plinio de Arruda Sampaio Jr. is a retired professor at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Between nation and barbarism – dilemmas of dependent capitalism (Voices).


[I]Information on the 2020 Municipal Elections is based on: https://noticias.uol.com.br/eleicoes/2020/apuracao/2turno/br#populacao-partido-vai-governar

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