Brazil's presidential race: polarization

In this week’s issue: The most important facts of the week. Presidential polls in 14 states. Election: In which promises should we believe?

The week in review

  • No support. Ciro Gomes returned from a tour in Europe after being left out of the presidential runoff stage. Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad, who is facing a difficult campaign, had expected an endorsement (even if with caveats) from Mr. Gomes. That didn’t happen yesterday and is unlikely to happen at all – even if frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro is, in Mr. Gomes’ eyes, a “fascist.” He’s expected to give an anti-Bolsonaro statement today – but will not declare support for Mr. Haddad. 
  • Censorship? The electoral courts carried out an operation to take down anti-fascism banners in seven public universities. The law forbids campaigning in public buildings, but according to Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber (who presides over the Electoral Justice system), freedom of speech shouldn’t be curbed. Prosecutor-General Raquel Dodge has also criticized the operation.
    </li> <li><strong>Dropping the towel?</strong><strong> </strong>The Workers&#8217; Party supreme leader, former president Lula, told friends who visited him in jail that a close defeat for Fernando Haddad would already be a positive result, as it would give strength to opposition forces during a Jair Bolsonaro administration. A big gap, however, would give the new president enormous momentum to approve his heavily conservative agenda.</li> <li><strong>Fake news.</strong><strong> </strong><a href="">OAS</a> observers in Brazil “weren’t prepared for” the spread of fake news to move from “public networks to private areas such as WhatsApp,” said mission leader Laura Chinchilla. According to the last Datafolha opinion poll, 47% of voters trust the information they receive on WhatsApp. That&#8217;s because the content is &#8220;curated&#8221; by a relative or a friend.</li> <li><strong>Markets.</strong><strong> </strong>Investors are skeptical of a comeback from Fernando Haddad. Yesterday &#8211; the last trading day before the election &#8211; the usual caution in such situation was nowhere to be found. The USD fell 1% against the BRL. Meanwhile, the São Paulo stock market went up 1.95%, the total opposite of what happened in international markets.</li> </ul> <hr /> <h2>Presidential polls in 14 states</h2> <p>Tomorrow, 14 states will have runoff stage elections for governor. Ibope, one of Brazil&#8217;s most respected polling institutes, has carried out presidential polls in each of these states. They help us see whether a potential comeback by Fernando Haddad is wishful thinking from his supporters or if there&#8217;s a true trend to be reckoned with. In the GIF below, we compare the scenario in those 14 states (which include the country&#8217;s three most populous states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro) on October 19 and 26.</p> <p>(States are displayed in order of the most populous to the least.)</p> <p>According to Carlos Montenegro, CEO at Ibope, &#8220;the scenario is one of an elected Jair Bolsonaro &#8211; the only question being the size of the gap he&#8217;ll manage to build.&#8221; Later today, both Datafolha and Ibope will publish their last polls before election day. As always, we&#8217;ll keep you posted.</p> <hr /> <h2><img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-14040" src="" alt="" width="1024" height="790" /><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-24592" src="" alt="election polls" width="1138" height="878" /></h2> <hr /> <h2>In which promises should we believe?</h2> <p>This is by no means a normal Brazilian election. While we could debate that Brazil&#8217;s 30-year-old democracy has never truly been fully-functioning, we had never seen such a negative electoral cycle. Millions of voters will choose Jair Bolsonaro simply because <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">he&#8217;s not from the Workers&#8217; Party</a>. Millions will choose Fernando Haddad just because he&#8217;s not Mr. Bolsonaro.</p> <p>True supporters of both men try to attract voters by saying assuring that their candidates will not actually follow through on their promises. Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies have talked about shutting down the Supreme Court and expelling political enemies. The Workers&#8217; Party presented an anachronic plan for government (which has been amended multiple times) promising a new Constitution and not reforming the pension system.</p> <p>Both sides have backpedaled in important parts of their program. We&#8217;ve selected the main U-turns:</p> <h4>Jair Bolsonaro</h4> <ul> <li><strong>Paris Accord:</strong> After saying he&#8217;d pull Brazil from the accord on climate change, as it would hamper national sovereignty, Mr. Bolsonaro has now said the exact opposite.</li> <li><strong>Uniting Ministries of Finance and Industry &amp; Foreign Trade:</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro wanted to create a &#8220;Super Ministry of the Economy.&#8221; Then, during a live broadcast on Facebook, he said that he could reconsider, if business owners didn&#8217;t agree with the move.</li> <li><strong>Shutting down the Supreme Court:</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s son Eduardo (a congressman elected with 1.8 million votes) said &#8220;it would only take a private and a corporal to shut down the Supreme Court.&#8221; Mr. Bolsonaro apologized for the incident, saying he&#8217;d already &#8220;given a lecture to the boy.&#8221;</li> </ul> <h4>Fernando Haddad</h4> <ul> <li><strong>New Constitution:</strong> The Workers&#8217; Party defended the creation of a new<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Constituent Assembly</a>, which sounded to many political actors as a populist way to change the established rules. After the first round, Mr. Haddad dropped the proposal.</li> <li><strong>Drug decriminalization:</strong> The party said the country needed to &#8220;look closely to the international experiments that have come to fruition thanks to the decriminalization and regulation of drug sales.&#8221; Then, the party slashed the word &#8220;decriminalization.&#8221;</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Limiting the tenure of Supreme Court Justices:</strong> Currently, justices stay in the court from the moment they are confirmed by the Senate until their 75th birthday (or when they choose to retire). Mr. Haddad defended limited terms, which sounded like a sore loser&#8217;s discourse from a party which had many of its high-profile names convicted for corruption by the court.</li> </ul> <p>The problem with the 2018 presidential election is that neither side considers its opponent as a legitimate political actor. <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">No matter what happens tomorrow</a>, the country will likely remain fractured.</p> <p><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica neue, helvetica, sans-serif;">Regarding how each man would govern Brazil, well, the proof is in the pudding.

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BY Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist with experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets.