Elections Portal 2014

The Elections Portal is a comprehensive guide that provides easily accessible information on the 2014 Brazilian Elections, created by the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center.Here, you can find background on the party platforms, the candidates, polls, debates, and information on important issues to the electorate. Our objective is to inform, educate, and foster dialogue.

Leading presidential candidates Eduardo Campos, Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves

Leading presidential candidates Eduardo Campos, Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves

Introduction By Paulo Sotero

In October 2014, Brazil will hold the seventh consecutive general election since the reinstatement of democracy in 1985. At stake are the presidency and vice-presidency of the Republic, the governorship of 27 states, all 513 seats of the Federal Chamber of Deputies and one third of the 81 Federal Senate seats. Federal deputies and Federal senators serve four and eight year terms, respectively. An estimated college of 140 million voters will also choose a total of 1,059 more delegates to the 27 unicameral states. Candidates will be presented by some 25 political parties, which will form electoral coalitions, which may vary by state and region. A successful candidate for president and governor must receive 50% plus one of the valid votes. Voting in Brazil is mandatory. Voters have to present an electoral id card issued by the Superior Electoral Tribunal, a specialized branch of the federal judiciary in charge of organizing and running elections. Elections are held on Sundays in thousands of precincts. Citizens cast their ballot electronically. Results are tallied and published a few hours after the closing of the polls.

Six months before the elections, President Dilma Rousseff seems well positioned to be reelected. Polls suggest that she may be able to renew her mandate for four more years in the first round of elections, scheduled for October 5th, a feat that her popular predecessor and political mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, did not achieved when he successfully ran in 2002 and 2006. The popularity of president Rousseff comes, however, with one important caveat. Two third of the voters tell posters that the want change. If no candidate receives the majority plus one of the valid votes in the first round, the top two will face off in a second round, scheduled for October 26.

According to analysis based on polls released in early 2014, Rousseff may benefit from a demobilizing effect among voters of the massive street protests that shook Brazil in June 2013. Surveys indicate that since the protests there has been a substantial increase in voters who say that they will spoil their vote or leave it blank as an act of protest against a political system many feel to be dysfunctional and self-serving. This would reduce the number of valid votes and in turn, make it easier for the front runner to win in the first round.

Much could change, however, when the electoral campaign heats up and enters the final stretch, in mid-July.  Media reports suggest that former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, an astute reader of Brazilian political trends and electoral moods, worries about the possibility of Rousseff facing a significant challenge in a second round from popular governor of Pernambuco Eduardo Campos, a former ally of the Workers’ Party-led coalition.  New factors could weigh heavily and dramatically change the March 2014 electoral outlook.  Among those are the economic indicators of growth, employment and inflation, expected protests around the time of the World Cup, to be played in twelve Brazilian cities, and the shape of regional electoral alliances. Delays in the completion of construction and renovations of the stadiums to be used during the World Cup and mass transportation systems to move millions of soccer fans during the tournament have already prevented the government to develop a positive narrative around the games. In early March, it was announced that President Dilma Rousseff will not make a welcome speech at the opening of the World Cup, in São Paulo, to avoid being booed by the public.  More important and potentially consequential was the shaken state of the PT’s alliance with it main ally, the center-right PMDB, in the early stages of the campaign.  Another factor much speculated about was the potential candidacy to the Federal Senate of Justice Joaquim Barbosa, in Campos’ Socialist Party ticket, which he denies but experts view as possible. The first black member of Brazil’s Supreme Court, Barbosa gained exposure and became widely popular as the presiding judge of the recently concluded Mensalão trial of political corruption.

Brazilian voters will start to focus on the electoral campaign after the World Cup, which will start on June 12 and end on July 13. Although a poor or victorious performance by the Brazilian national team could affect the mood of the country, history recommends against such speculations.  In 1950, the last time the World Cup was played in Brazil, the national team lost the final to Uruguay and the newly inaugurated stadium of Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro. A few months later, however, former dictator Getúlio Vargas, who had initiated the construction of the stadium, was democratically elected president.  The nexus between the World Cup and election results has remained an improbable one after the redemocratization of 1985. Brazil’s poor performance in 1998 did not affect the election of former senator and minister of Finance Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who ran with the support of President Itamar Franco. Another loss, four years later, did not prevent Cardoso’s reelection. In 2002, when Brazil won the World Cup for the fifth time, Cardoso’s candidate lost to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. A devout soccer fan, Lula had little trouble being reelected in 2006 and helping his candidate, Dilma Rousseff, get elected in 2010, years in which Brazil did not do well in the Soccer World Cup.

In the event of a victorious performance by the Brazilian team this year, it is unlikely that Rousseff would attempt to obtain political dividend from the explosion of national joy that is sure to occur.  First because it could backfire. More importantly, however, is that the last government in Brazil that used the national team’s triumph in a World Cup as political propaganda, in 1970, was the one that tortured a political prisoner named  Dilma Rousseff.


Photos courtesy of Flicrk users Fernando StankunsRede Brasil AtualPSDB MGand Roberto Pereira

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