2018 Election 2018 Election

Brazil’s “new politics” is more of the same

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brazil new politics 2018 election

In Congress since 1999, Rodrigo Maia claims to be the “new politics.” Photo: ABr

The 2018 election officially began this week. On Thursday, two candidates threw their names into the mix: House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, and former Congressman and Minister Ciro Gomes.

In a speech during his party’s convention, Maia issued some bold statements. “I accept the challenge to break with what is old and retrograde in Brazilian politics,” he said. Maia, however, is not exactly a newcomer – he first took office as a federal congressman in 1998. His father is also a seasoned politician, having served as the mayor of Rio de Janeiro during the 2000s; he is current in Rio’s city council.

Maia showcased his robust confidence at the event launching his candidacy. Despite polling at less than 1 percent, Maia guaranteed that he will make it to the runoff stage. In order to get there, Maia has carefully distanced himself from the embattled President Michel Temer – who is currently liked by just 6 percent of Brazilians. “I’m not willing to defend [Temer’s] legacy. If his party wants to support me, great.”

On the same day, leftist wildcard Ciro Gomes also launched his candidacy. He is no stranger to presidential campaigns either, having already run in 1998 and 2002. Twenty years ago, Ciro finished the election in third place, with 10.97 percent. At that election, then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso won by a landslide, earning 53 percent of votes and winning the election in the first round.

Four years later, Ciro had gained momentum, and polls had him tied with Lula da Silva in a potential runoff stage. But then his mouth got the best of him. He called a voter “stupid” during a radio interview, and said that his then-wife’s role was limited to “sleeping with [him].”

Maia and Ciro are evidence that the Brazilian political landscape has not renewed over the past decades. Alongside them, the presidential ballot will be filled with other examples of the same-old politics, from São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin to Congressman Jair Bolsonaro to former President Lula – the latter has already run for president five times and has been convicted of corruption and money laundering.

Until April 7, Brazil’s politicians are entering into what Brazilians refer to as the “partisan window,” a period during which congressmen can change parties without the risk of losing their seats (the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that parties, not candidates, “own” the seat).

During the window, parties start to lure more congressmen into joining their ranks. The reason? In the campaign season, parties will have 40 minutes of free airtime on television and radio – such time is portioned according to the number of seats in the House. That same logic also applies to a public fund to finance campaigns.

Now, the candidates that promise “change” and “renewal” will try pandering to precisely the same political forces that have dominated Brazil for years – all to make an extra buck and a few more seconds of TV time.

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About the author

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.