Elections 2020: with 12 months to go, campaigns heating up around Brazil

. Oct 09, 2019
electoral Elections 2020: with 12 months to go, campaigns heating up around Brazil

In a little under 12 months, Brazil’s voters will go to the polls once again to elect mayors and local councilors of the country’s 5,570 municipalities. Coming at the halfway point of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential term, next year’s elections will serve as an important yardstick for the current administration and could indicate some upcoming trends for the next national vote in 2022.

If the race for the presidential palace in 2022 is already being talked about three years before the fact, one can be under no illusion that the 2020 municipal election campaign is well underway, with key battlegrounds being set up in the country’s biggest cities.

</p> <h2>We don&#8217;t need no television</h2> <p>Last year&#8217;s presidential vote turned out to be Brazil&#8217;s very first <a href="">social media election</a>, with campaigning on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp Messenger turning out to be much more effective than traditional vote-whipping on television and radio.</p> <p>The ultimate example of this shift in political advertising came in the shape of President Jair Bolsonaro. As a member of the Social Liberal Party (PSL)—at the time a dwarfish figure in Brazilian politics—he received only eight seconds of TV advertising space in each hour of political broadcasts last year.</p> <p><a href="">Television time in Brazil</a> is divvied up in accordance with the amount of representatives each party has in Congress, with the total able to be increased by making alliances between parties. Geraldo Alckmin, the candidate for the moderate right-wing Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), ended up with nine of the country&#8217;s 35 parties in his corner and had a full five minutes and 32 seconds of advertising time to himself.</p> <p>However, when the ballots were counted up, Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s eight seconds of TV time got him over 49 million votes in the first round, while Mr. Alckmin received slightly over 5 million.</p> <p>As a consequence, next year&#8217;s election will be <a href="">almost entirely based on social media</a> campaigning, with television advertising firmly taking a back seat. Alliances will only be allowed for mayoral races, but with little upside to making compromises with other parties, they are likely to be ignored, potentially leading to more ideological and less conciliatory campaigns.</p> <script src="" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Right or left?</h2> <p>Another key question regarding next year&#8217;s election is whether the conservative wave of 2018 will continue, and whether the embattled left can regain any sort of ground. With such a huge swing to the right last year, bootstrapped by Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s popularity, it is likely that next year&#8217;s municipal elections will see some minor losses for 2018&#8217;s big winners.</p> <p>The question of the left, however, is more complex. Last year&#8217;s election caused a split between the left&#8217;s biggest party, the Workers&#8217; Party, and the important center-left forces of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) and Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). Upset with the Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s unwillingness to rally around Ciro Gomes, the leader of the PDT, the parties broke off relations in the aftermath of the vote, leaving the left fragmented, impotent, and silent.</p> <p>Now, with 2020 around the corner, there is a conscious need for some form of broad left alliance to push back against Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s far-right, with the <a href=",810268/pt-quase-some-do-mapa-nas-eleicoes-de-2016.shtml">Workers&#8217; Party</a> attempting to gather the disparate interests of the left under one banner.</p> <p>The dilemma for the left it that while the Workers&#8217; Party still has the biggest grassroots militancy of any political party in Brazil, being guaranteed a good percentage of the votes in any region of the country and with any candidate, the party is also the most despised among the population.</p> <p>As a result, this means that while Workers&#8217; Party mayoral candidates often have good chances to make run-off elections in major cities, they are likely to have <a href="">severe difficulties</a> when pitted against other candidates head-to-head.</p> <p>For next year&#8217;s elections, there is a chance that the Workers&#8217; Party will lend its support to other left-wing names in certain key areas, without putting up its own representative. A telling case will be in the city of Recife, where the PSB will look for the party&#8217;s support to elect João Campos as mayor. However, the Workers&#8217; Party has already made moves to launch Marília Arraes as its pick for Recife mayor. Coincidentally, the two are second cousins.</p> <h2>Elections 2020: key battlegrounds</h2> <p>While important in their own right, the mayoral races in Brazil&#8217;s two biggest cities will serve as proxy battles for different facets of the 2022 presidential dispute. In São Paulo, the fight will come between President Jair Bolsonaro and <a href="">São Paulo Governor João Doria</a>—who have been at each other&#8217;s throats since the start of the year, with the latter harboring a desire to run for president in 2022.</p> <p>Pundits&#8217; favorite for the election is Joice Hasselmann, who has already stated she will run for the position. Receiving over one million votes last year for her seat in the House of Representatives, she is a popular figure on the São Paulo right-wing and would be in a good position to win.</p> <p>However, it is still unclear whether a victory for Ms. Hasselmann would represent a win for Jair Bolsonaro, or for João Doria. She is currently a member of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s Social Liberal Party, and is the government&#8217;s whip in Congress. However, she is much closer to the São Paulo governor, suggesting she may defect to Mr. Doria&#8217;s PSDB to dispute the election.</p> <p>In Rio de Janeiro, the field for mayor is far messier, with next year&#8217;s race likely to represent internal struggles within Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s support base. Rio de Janeiro is the political homeground of the Bolsonaro family, meaning that a number of far-right candidates are likely to stand and fight over the clan&#8217;s endorsement.</p> <p>The city is also set to see differences <em>between</em> President Bolsonaro&#8217;s sons, with <a href="">Carlos and Flávio Bolsonaro</a> each talking up different candidates to stand for the PSL. The former is in favor of endorsing member of Congress Hélio Lopes—also known as Hélio Bolsonaro or Hélio Negão and a close friend of Jair Bolsonaro—while Flávio prefers state representative Rodrigo Amorim.</p> <p>Elsewhere, evangelical bishop and incumbent mayor Marcelo Crivella will run for re-election, set to gamble on the moralist, ultra-conservative behavior he showed earlier this year, when he banned an Avengers comic from a Rio book fair because it contained a scene of two male characters kissing.</p> <p>Eduardo Paes, who served as Rio mayor from 2009 to 2016, has been working a behind-the-scenes alliance with hard-right <a href="">Governor Wilson Witzel</a>, which could give him a chance in the polls.</p> <p>The left in Rio de Janeiro is likely to put its weight behind congressman Marcelo Freixo, who came second to Mr. Crivella in the 2016 elections. Among a field of right and far-right options, Mr. Freixo could rally broad support to take him to the second round once again.

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