Main takes of the first round of Brazilian elections

. Oct 08, 2018
Brazilian elections Brazilian elections reserve some surprises

With the election results decided, we can now draw some conclusions after Sunday’s vote – even if, at this point, it is hard to benefit from hindsight. Here are the main takes of Brazil’s 2018 elections:

Supercharged anti-establishment sentiment

For so long, Brazilians have been really pissed off at the country’s political system. But every four years, the same old names would get elected – thanks to their tight grip on the political apparatus. Social media has shattered that dominance of old establishment names, and many candidates thought to be sure lock-ins in their races ended up losing.

In 2013, millions of Brazilians took to the streets and asked for change – but the political class shrugged. Five years later, the backlash came. On the left, maintaining former president Lula as the single reference proved to be detrimental, as he draws as much rejection as support. On the right, insisting on conducting ‘business as usual’ proved to be a massive mistake.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Names such as incumbent senators Romero Jucá, Eunício Oliveira, Edison Lobão will not renew their terms in 2019. For them, that could prove worse than just losing power &#8211; as they face many corruption investigations and could end up in jail once they lose legal benefits enjoyed by members of the Parliament.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To the left, names such as former Senator Eduardo Suplicy and </span><a href=",99e1a5baf230c06ccf57eab0b932b93ft1w6zi46.html"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dilma Rousseff</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> fought for seats in the upper house &#8211; and were polling high. But once the ballots were counted, they fell well short. Many relatives of longtime politicians lost their races, too. People wanted &#8220;new&#8221; candidates.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A total of 11 people who occupied cabinet positions in President Michel Temer&#8217;s administration lost elections. </span></p> <h2>The &#8220;no vote&#8221;</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With 99 percent of ballots counted, the &#8220;no vote&#8221; (including spoiled ballots and abstentions) amounted to 29 percent of the total. While the rate is slightly higher than 2014, it can&#8217;t be considered an outlier. Now, the question will be: in a second round of the presidential election with campaigns as polarizing Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s and the Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s, will voters engage more and reduce the &#8220;no vote&#8221;, or will they be too disillusioned to show up to the polls? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While voting in Brazil is an obligation, voters can escape any consequence by paying a fine of less than USD 1 &#8211; or justify their absence in a city other than where they are registered to vote.</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9587" src="" alt="Main takes of the first round of Brazilian elections" width="1024" height="573" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <h2>Old-timers out, celebrities in</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Brazil&#8217;s Congress will have a lot of social media celebrities, including Tiririca the Clown, who won a third-straight term, Alexandre Frota, a porn star turned far-right activist, and Bebeto, a striker who helped Brazil win its fourth World Cup, in 1994. Curiously, his teammate Romário lost in the Rio de Janeiro gubernatorial race. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the Senate, celebrities include Jorge Kajuru, a controversial, almost blind former journalist, and Leila, a former volleyball player.</span></p> <h2>The downfall of the social democrats</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The <a href="">Brazilian Social Democracy Party</a> (PSDB) has been losing support for quite some time. But Sunday&#8217;s melancholic defeat means that the party &#8211; at least as we know it &#8211; is dead. The politicians who founded the party have either passed away (former São Paulo governor Mário Covas), retired (former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso), are being hassled by corruption investigations (incumbent Senator José Serra), or have become irrelevant, as is the case of failed presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin &#8211; who got less than 5 percent of votes for president.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A new group is taking over, the so-called &#8220;Black Heads&#8221; (a reference to their youth and lack of gray hairs). They are less social democratic and more hardcore right-wing. The frontrunner in the São Paulo gubernatorial race, João Doria, embodies that new cadre better than anyone. He is already gravitating towards Jair Bolsonaro, promising that, if elected, he will instruct São Paulo&#8217;s police to &#8220;shoot to kill.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Once upon a time a center-left party, the PSDB never knew how to deal with being out of power. It gradually shifted more and more to the right, falling into a gray area that was too conservative for liberals, and too liberal for conservatives.</span></p> <h2>The Bolsonaro effect on Brazilian elections</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An endorsement from (or to) </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jair Bolsonaro</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> was enough to push many candidates to the second round in gubernatorial races, and to a win in senatorial disputes. In the lower house, Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s Social Liberal Party went from a dwarf party to the holder of the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">second-biggest amount of seats</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. His son became the best-voted candidate for Congress in Brazilian history (1.8 million votes) and the woman who almost became his vice-president nominee got over 2 million votes for the state legislature.</span></p> <h2>São Paulo&#8217;s nailbiter</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">No gubernatorial race was as contested as São Paulo&#8217;s. While João Doria jumped ahead, with 31 percent of votes, the second spot in the runoff stage was decided ballot by ballot. Even after 98 percent of votes had been counted, it was not possible to know whether incumbent Márcio França or businessman Paulo Skaf would make the cut. By a margin of only 70,000 votes (in a universe of 33 million), Mr. França qualified, with 21.5 percent (to Mr. Skaf&#8217;s 21 percent).</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-9588" src="" alt="Main takes of the first round of Brazilian elections" width="998" height="808" srcset=" 998w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 998px) 100vw, 998px" /></p> <hr /> <h2>Main issues</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The biometric system has been implemented for a few years by Brazil&#8217;s Electoral Justice system, aiming at giving more transparency to the voting process and avoid fraud. But it was blamed for the long lines in several polling stations. Even Salvador Mayor Antônio Carlos Magalhães Neto had to wait over one hour and a half to vote &#8211; and that&#8217;s because sitting politicians can cut the line.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the Superior Electoral Court, 2,400 </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">electronic voting machines</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> were replaced (i.e. 0.46 percent of the total). Meanwhile, 728 people were arrested or taken in for questioning for electoral crimes. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the Amazon state of Pará, the government spent BRL 40 million to transport voting machines to remote municipalities &#8211; by boat, helicopter, plane, cars, canoe- even buffalo- and horse-pulled wagons.

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