Tuesday, February 27

The keys to Bolsonaro’s electoral persistence

Voting intention polls gave Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva such an unwavering and exclusive support that day after day they made us glimpse a victory in the first round of the Brazilian elections. Or, at least, a distance of ten points with the second favorite. Within the limits of error that they themselves declared tolerable, the polls were not reprehensibly wrong in the case of his first and only favorite. After completing the scrutiny of 99% of the votes, Lula goes to the second round in first place, with 48.3% of the votes.

The polls had not foreseen that President Jair Messias Bolsonaro would follow behind, and not so far, with 43.2% of the vote. Even fewer had succeeded, or even prefigured, what were the changes in the political and regional composition of the official electorate, which created a new but very propitious base for the campaign towards the second round of October 30.

The PSDB turned to the right and voted for Bolsonaro

Perhaps the most important historical trait left by Sunday’s election is the consummation of the loss of political and electoral relevance of the Social Democratic Party of Brazil (PSDB), which with the election and re-election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso ruled Brazil for two terms.

In the election for the government of the state of São Paulo, which the PSDB governed for 30 solid and uninterrupted years, this party has come in third place. It is as if in an election in the City of Buenos Aires, the PRO came out in third place in the parish of Recoleta. São Paulo is not just any state. He is the richest in Brazil and the locomotive of industry, finance and agribusiness.

The big winner, against the polls, is Tarsício Freitas, a Bolsonarist candidate, who is eight points ahead of Fernando Haddad (of the Workers’ Party), whom the polls gave a comfortable winner. Whoever stays with the governorship will be decided in the second round of the last Sunday of October.

Everything invites us to believe that the second round will accentuate the victory of the right in the economic heart of Brazil. San Pablo is perhaps the state with the clearest profile and decidedly ‘antipetista’. In the capital, from time to time the Workers’ Party wins the municipal government, as it did with Marta Suplicy and with Fernando Haddad himself, who in the 2018 presidential elections was the PT’s national candidate, with Lula politically inhibited.

Two data are one the mirror of the other. In San Pablo, Bolsonaro beats Lula by 8 points. It is a mirror of the growth of the Bolsonarista vote in the government of the State. The PSDB vote went to Bolsonarismo, then. And this is a novel fact, and unexpected, although not unforeseeable. The PT’s ticket, which had a defeated former PSDB presidential candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, as its vice-presidential candidate, did not drain the PT of the old Social Democratic vote. The transfer of the electorate went to Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party (PL) and its regional allies.

If the PSDB goes to the second round in Rio Grande do Sul, its power base would move to the south. If, as it seems, it does not succeed, the PSDB would disappear from the political scene.

Río and Minas, two heterogeneous allies

Conservative Cláudio Castro, of the Liberal Party (PL), was re-elected governor of Rio de Janeiro in the first round, defeating Marcelo Freixo, who had Lula’s support. Castro won by a wide margin with 58.2% of the vote, compared to 27.7% obtained by Freixo, according to official data released by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).

The result is a severe blow to the Brazilian left that aspired to come to power in the country’s third most populous state. Castro, who was lieutenant governor for fellow conservative Wilson Witzel, took over as governor when the former magistrate was removed for corruption, just a year after being elected and despite suspicions of irregularities in his management, especially during the pandemic.

The re-elected governor is a faithful follower of Bolsonaro and defends, like him, the “iron hand” to combat violence.

In Minas Gerais, Governor Ricardo Zema, of the new liberal but not conservative Novo party, won an easy re-election. In some ways, he is similar to Gustavo Petro’s rival in the Colombian presidential runoff. Rodolfo Hernández, like Zema, based his legitimacy on cleaning up public accounts. Before Zema, state employees in the third state of the country by number of voters, suffered delays of months in receiving their salaries, which also received installments in installments.

According to voting intention polls, the second preference in the electorate of Ciro Gomes, the leftist candidate who came out third, is Bolsonaro. And the same thing happens with the center-right Simone Tebet, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), Simone Tebet, fourth in Sunday’s election, and loquacious winner in the rhetoric of the televised presidential debates. Those voters are the ones that Bolsonaro and Lula will go after to reach the presidency of Brazil.