Brazil’s political map after the 2020 elections

Brazil's political map after the 2020 elections Rally in São Paulo. Photo: Gilberto Marques/FP

The 2020 municipal elections were as atypical as they come. Being held amid a deadly pandemic, the first round of voting was marred by an attempted hack and technical issues that delayed the count, and polling days were postponed in one state capital hit by weeks-long power cuts. The results are, fittingly, hard to interpret.

As we explained in today’s Weekly Report, the center-right was the biggest victor of these elections, winning in thousands of municipalities, including key battlegrounds such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte. That could signal that Bolsonarism as a political force is less ingrained in Brazil — and that moderate conservatives have a fighting chance in the next general elections.

But power has become more diluted among parties, which makes any projections about 2022 little more than educated guesses.

</p> <p>Propelled by a <a href="">win in São Paulo</a>, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) continues to rule over the largest chunk of the population (32.9 million people) at a municipal level, including in the country&#8217;s 96 most populous constituencies. However, the PSDB also lost 40 percent of its mayorships and has become even more concentrated in the state of São Paulo — where it will control one-third of cities.</p> <p>There was a similar mixed bag of results for the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) party, <a href="">once Brazil&#8217;s largest party</a> in representative terms. While the traditional political group won more races in the top-96 and overall cities than any other, its lead ahead of the competition has narrowed. In 2012, the MDB won 1,021 cities — a number now down to 781.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4515661"><script src=""></script></div> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-hierarchy" data-src="visualisation/4514804"><script src=""></script></div> <iframe title="Top 4 winningest parties in 2020" aria-label="Map" id="datawrapper-chart-Q3NAR" src="" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border: none;" width="600" height="658"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>At first glance, the 2020 elections seem to indicate a good opening for São Paulo Governor João Doria&#8217;s presidential chances. In his effort to push his former deputy, Bruno Covas, to win four more years as mayor of São Paulo, Mr. Doria managed to build an 11-party coalition — something that could be the embryo of a conservative anti-Bolsonaro front in two years.</p> <p>However, some of the same parties that formed the Covas coalition have lent their support to President Jair Bolsonaro — and their loyalty is solely based on immediate gains. It remains unclear where these parties will go from now on. If the president fails to put forward a welfare program to replace the coronavirus emergency salary, his approval ratings could dip (which has already started to happen) and he will lose support.&nbsp;</p> <p>But if Mr. Bolsonaro pulls a rabbit out of the hat, then he becomes the <a href="">favorite to win re-election</a>.</p> <h2>The downfall of the left continues</h2> <p>If the center-right seems to have grown stronger, the opposite can be said about the left&nbsp;— which still appears disoriented by Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s 2018 win. For the first time since democracy was restored in Brazil, the center-left Workers&#8217; Party failed to win a single state capital, despite being the party with most candidates in runoff disputes (15 in 57 cities).</p> <p>In 2021, the Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s biggest mayoral constituency will be Contagem — on the outskirts of Minas Gerais capital Belo Horizonte — a city of 660,000 people.</p> <p>Despite gaining more mayoral offices in absolute terms, these elections were worse for the party of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva than 2016 — which happened on the coattails of Dilma Rousseff&#8217;s impeachment. While a poor performance was somewhat expected, this obliteration of what was once the most popular party in the country is astonishing and indicates that anti-Workers&#8217; Party sentiment has not waned.</p> <p>The left&#8217;s main challengers, Guilherme Boulos in São Paulo and Manuela D&#8217;Ávila in the southern city of Porto Alegre, conducted powerful campaigns — especially on social media — but were ultimately defeated by <a href=";utm_medium=email">wide margins</a>. Both ended up having fewer votes than the number of absentee voters.</p> <iframe title="The left loses ground in 2020" aria-label="Map" id="datawrapper-chart-RaP5O" src="" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="685"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(a){if(void 0!["datawrapper-height"])for(var e in["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-"+e)||document.querySelector("iframe[src*='"+e+"']");t&&(["datawrapper-height"][e]+"px")}}))}(); </script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Evangelicals gain ground in 2020 elections</h2> <p>The Republicanos party is the political arm of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God — one of the biggest and most controversial evangelical denominations in Brazil. Its face in these elections was Marcelo Crivella, the incumbent mayor of Rio de Janeiro.&nbsp;</p> <p>Rejected by two-thirds of Rio&#8217;s citizens, Mr. Crivella&#8217;s defeat by a landslide was a predictable fiasco. While some saw this as signs that the <a href="">church&#8217;s political ambitions have been stopped</a>, the numbers show otherwise.</p> <p>The party&#8217;s strategy to build up its municipal base started in 2019, when it <a href="">rebranded</a> in order to lose its image as a <a href="">strictly evangelical political group</a>. And it has been soundly successful.</p> <p>Republicanos has nearly doubled the number of cities under its command to at least 208 (some races remain under legal contention). That&#8217;s more than the Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s 184 and twice the total won by the Social Liberal Party, which became the second-biggest party in Congress in 2018.</p> <p>The church&#8217;s party has experienced enormous growth in the states of Amazonas, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, and Pará. &#8220;Of all city councilors elected in the state of Amazonas, 16 percent came from Republicanos,&#8221; celebrated Congressman Silas Câmara, a party leader and evangelical preacher.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, no other party has elected as many city councilors in state capitals.</p> <p>For 2022, the party has its eyes on one possible candidate for president: Jair Bolsonaro, who since last year has not been affiliated with any political party.

Read the full story NOW!

Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

Aline Gatto Boueri

Aline Gatto Boueri is a data journalist. She has had her work published by Gênero e Número, Universa UOL, Marie Claire, Projeto Colabora, among others.

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at