In October 2018, Brazilians will go to the polls to elect their president, national legislators, state legislators, and governors.
The president and governors compete in a two-round system. If no candidate surpasses the 50 percent threshold on October 7, the second-round runoff will take place on October 28.
- Who are the candidates, their party affiliations, their polling results, and their policy inclinations?
- Why is Lula in jail, and how can a convicted criminal be running for the presidency? Why do people support him?
- What criminality and known corruption has occurred that implicates the other candidates?
- What issues are driving the campaigns? Are any liberalization proposals on the table?
- Has anything changed with the political structure in Brazil, after these years of corruption scandals and social upheaval?
- Further Observations
Who are the candidates, their party affiliations, their polling results, and their policy inclinations?
As in every presidential election, Brazil has several candidates. This time, however, the list of 13 registered candidates beats the record, going all the way back to 1989. August 15 was the last day for withdrawals and alliances.
The most popular candidates:
- Luiz Inácio da Silva, a.k.a. Lula.
- Workers’ Party (PT), an old, traditional labor party, but the entire left may fold under Lula if he’s allowed to run.
- Polling: 31 percent, down from over 40 percent before he was jailed.
- Ideology: social democracy, third-way clientelist welfare state.
- Running mate: Fernando Haddad, former mayor of Sao Paulo. Haddad, polling at 13 percent, will be the PT candidate if Lula is unable to run.
- Observations: Lula (72) was president, achieving reelection, from 2003 to 2011.
- Congressman Jair Bolsonaro
- Social Liberal Party (PSL), a small and relatively unknown social-democratic party. He joined it a few months ago to run for president.
- Polling: steady 19-23 percent.
- Ideology: right-wing populism, social conservatism.
- Running mate: Hamilton Mourao, a retired army general. Bolsonaro almost picked a descendant of Brazil’s unofficial royal family.
- Observations: some Brazilian libertarians support him along the lines of support for Donald Trump. However, Bolsonaro has been in the Chamber of Deputies since 1991 for five different parties, so he is not an outsider. Favored by tough-on-crime types, he has a large and fanatical presence online.
- Marina Silva
- REDE, the Sustainability Network, a new party founded in 2013 when she first ran for president.
- Polling: 8-12 percent, down from around 20 percent before Lula was jailed, when she was a prospective PT candidate.
- Ideology: a former Green Party candidate, she espouses environmental and labor causes. As an evangelical Christian, she holds conservative social views.
- Running mate: Eduardo Jorge, a doctor and former member of the Green Party.
- Observations: she was a former member of Lula’s PT and even his minister for the environment. Leftists who don’t want to support the corrupt PT might vote for her.
- Geraldo Alckmin
- Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). He is president of the party, an old pro-business group and the main opposition party to Lula and Dilma Rousseff.
- Polling: 10 percent, up from around 8 percent when Lula was arrested.
- Ideology: centrist, establishment candidate, moderately pro-market.
- Running mate: Ana Amélia, senator for the Progressive Party (PP).
- Observations: he stepped down as governor of Sao Paulo, a powerful position in the country’s richest state, to run for president. Business unions and many other establishment parties support him.
- Congressman Ciro Gomes
- Democratic Labor Party (PDT), an old leftist party founded after the end of the military dictatorship. It was the major socialist party until the PT’s rise.
- Polling: 6-9 percent. He has polled stronger before, reaching 14 percent in recent months.
- Ideology: a center-left social democrat, but a rabble rouser and quixotic.
- Running mate: Kátia Abreu, senator for the PDT.
- Observations: he was a minister under Lula and other governments. He used to be a member of more pro-business parties and was the finance minister who helped bring down Brazil’s hyperinflation in the 1990s.
Joao Amoedo deserves mention as the candidate for and former president of the classical-liberal New Party (NOVO). However, given a low profile, the economist and engineer usually does not appear in polls.
How did Lula get put in jail, and how can a convicted criminal be running for the presidency? Why do people support him?
Lula was sentenced to 12 years in prison for accepting bribes from Brazilian construction companies. His conviction has been upheld by an appeals court, but his lawyers are doing everything they can to get the Supreme Court to either reverse the decision or at least allow him to run for president. His fate will be decided in the next couple of weeks.
Even though many former supporters have turned on him, he remains immensely popular and vocal. He presided over a commodities boom and enacted several social programs that benefited millions of poor Brazilians.
What criminality and known corruption has occurred that implicates the other candidates?
Lula is the target of six other criminal investigations which could add to his jail time.
Almost all Brazilian parties were involved in the Petrobras corruption scandal in some way. The party of the sitting president Michel Temer, PMDB, has the most members in jail after the Workers’ Party, although the PP of Alckmin’s running mate has a higher proportion of members under investigation—over half of their federal representatives. The ruling party’s candidate, Henrique Meirelles, was an employee of a meat company also accused of paying bribes to government officials.
Bolsonaro was convicted of hate speech and incitement to rape a fellow congresswoman, who filed a civil lawsuit. Bolsonaro argued she was “so ugly she didn’t deserve to be raped.” Another criminal investigation is pending for the same reason.
Alckmin (PSDB) is accused of receiving $10 million in bribes, which he denies.
What issues are driving the campaigns? Are any liberalization proposals on the table?
- Crime and violence at record numbers. The homicide rate, for example, reached 30.8 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017, or 175 murders per day. Bolsonaro is addressing this issue by calling for more army officers on the street and stricter laws against felons under 18.
- Unemployment remains stubbornly high at over 12 percent.
- The economic slowdown and the fiscal deficit have pushed the government to privatize some companies in the energy and oil sectors, but no major candidate calls for free markets.
Has anything changed with the political structure in Brazil, after these years of corruption scandals and social upheaval?
Brazil now has a culture war similar to that of the United States. Right-wing and left-wing movements are more polarized than ever. Bolsonaro and PT supporters are at each others’ throats all day.
Due to the massive corruption scandals, the population do not believe in the party system anymore and are looking for perceived outsiders.
There have been some meaningful reforms to reduce the nation’s deficit and kickstart the economy. A 20-year spending cap has been placed in the Brazilian Constitution as a way to credibly keep the deficit under control. Federal spending can only grow at the rate of the previous year’s inflation. This has been extremely unpopular and led to the current president’s popularity sinking to single digits, around 3-5 percent.
The general sentiment is pessimistic. Well-off Brazilians are leaving the country, and 43 percent of adults surveyed in a poll would leave too if they had the opportunity. Even though the Brazilian economy posted its first growth figures in 2017 (1 percent of GDP), the OECD predicts that only in 2019 will the economy return to pre-recession growth rates.
In Brazil, candidates get “free” and mandatory air time on national television and radio for political ads. The amount of minutes each candidate gets depends on how many seats the parties backing him have. Even though Alckmin, the PSBD candidate, has low approval ratings, he will get most of the air time because he has several establishment parties behind him.This will be the first election since the Supreme Court banned corporations from directly contributing to political campaigns. A national fund, taken from taxpayers, will be the main source of financing in Brazil’s short campaign window.
“Brazil Has Not Learnt Her Lesson,” Epoch Times, by Fergus Hodgson