The Brazilians punished this Sunday the two figures that most polarize Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro and his predecessor Lula da Silva. The far-right is the great loser of the first round of the municipal elections because the electorate opted for a return to the traditional parties of the center-right, forgetting the discourse against the old policy of exchanging favors that drove the military to the presidency. Almost all the candidates he sponsored lost, but Bolsonarismo is still alive. And the Workers' Party falls to record lows.
A small party born from a split in the PT is the surprise of the elections in which another novelty is the increase in female councilors, including black women and transsexuals. The polls were confirmed and the PSOL (the Socialism and Freedom Party), to which the murdered Marielle Franco belonged, has achieved the feat of going to the second round in São Paulo, the richest city in Brazil. The options for Guilherme Boulos, an activist for homeless workers, are slim as he faces the mayor, Bruno Covas, but he has achieved an invaluable showcase for his party. Brazilians elected mayors and councilors from the more than 5,500 cities.
Although the final map of these elections delayed by the pandemic, which triggered abstention to 23%, will only be after the second round on November 29, several trends are clear. "This result is a fiasco for Bolsonaro," says Carolina Botelho, from the Institute of Social and Political Studies of the State University of Rio de Janeiro. The analyst points out that the president has not managed to translate the enormous power that the presidency grants into mayors of the capitals or into a front of allied parties. “It is so chaotic that he left the PSL (the party he joined for the elections), but he has not managed to build a party of his own, thus he has also renounced the electoral (financing) fund. He has broken a blank check, ”he explains. Additionally, voters have backed mayors who pushed for coronavirus restrictions and turned their backs on the president's denial.
The evangelical pastor Marcelo Crivella in Rio de Janeiro is Bolsonaro's big bet for the second round. He also supports Captain Wagner Gomes in Fortaleza, who led a police strike years ago. Bolsonarism leaves a mark perhaps less visible but clear in these elections: the proliferation of police and military candidates and elect from many parties, including some from the left.
But the great beneficiaries of the day are called PSD, MDB, PSDB, DEM, PP or PL. They are the initials of a lifetime, parties without ideology, often anchored in local interests and that are usually ready to support the incumbent president in exchange for positions that manage the budget. Here called physiological parties, they have increased their harvest of votes. The victory of the three mayors of state capitals elected in this first round, those of Belo Horizonte, Salvador de Bahía (in territory that was faithful to the PT) and Curitiba can be pointed out. It involves the resurrection of some formations that, Botelho emphasizes, "never died." They do know how to do politics, negotiate, come to terms with anyone, which Bolsonaro has never known how to do. That is why the president has difficulty finding the partners necessary for his legislative projects to be approved or recognizable after they pass through Congress and why his little effort to build a party for him has failed miserably.
The main traditional parties govern the territory where almost half of Brazilians live, according to the results of the first round. Although holding the presidency does not have to imply an equivalent territorial power, the data give the measure of the hemorrhage that the PT has been suffering since it was expelled in an impeachment before the popular clamor against corruption. Only 1.8% of Brazilians live in municipalities with PT mayors. He has lost a third of the mayoralties in these elections, but he is still a political machine.
The political scientist maintains that Lula and his people "are lost, they are not knowing how to read today's Brazil, they believe it is the one from the days of (Fernando) Collor", at the beginning of the nineties. Two years before the presidential elections, he maintains Lula as leader, although he cannot attend because he is convicted of corruption and the formation continues to be absent from public debate, although it has the largest parliamentary group.
But if measured in territorial power, the PT has even lost the primacy of the left to the noiseless rise of the PDT (the center-left Trabalhista Democratic Party). The formation of former presidential candidate Ciro Gomes, rooted in the impoverished northeast, governs cities where 3.3% of the population lives.
The same old quick count failed
The vote brought one more surprise, the count. When Brazilians hoped to show the United States and the world how a continental country scrutinizes 147 million votes and delivers the results by dinner time, the system failed and they only came out at midnight. The four-hour delay in counting the equivalent of the votes cast 12 days earlier in the United States cut short the desire to mock the powerful northern neighbors accumulated during the agonizing recount of the Trump-Biden duel.
The jokes that proliferated after the US elections last night changed their tone. The triumphalism of those days was transformed into laments like "Arizona laughs at us" or "they are Americanizing our count."
The problem was not in the electronic ballot box, but in the computer that adds the votes in Brasilia, as explained by the Superior Electoral Court. But the breakdown fueled conspiracy theories among the Bolsonarians and allegations of fraud. Bolsonaro has repeatedly defended the reinstatement of the printed vote, also this Monday. Brazil, where voting is compulsory, has used electronic ballot boxes since 1996, which it takes to the last corner of the Amazon. They were devised by a mysterious group of technicians nicknamed the ninjas because among them there were several Japanese-Brazilians. The electoral authorities say they are fraud proof because they are not connected to the Internet. They are manufactured by a German company.