An Overview of the 2018 Brazilian Elections
As most of you know, Brazilian elections are upon us.
By “you,” I mean the incredibly divided population of Brazil which currently engages in a fight that greatly resembles the recent US election.
This is not the only parallel this article will attempt to point out between both elections. There are also plenty of differences between both situations and a close background analysis is needed in order to understand how things came to be the way they are.
One of the main differences is in the system itself.
TV stations are forced to show an ad for each candidate, for a set amount of time, and the bigger the coalition the more time they have, which tends to result in parties creating huge alliances.
There is also a party fund, provided by the state, with tax money, which every party receives, numbering in the millions of dollars to campaign. You read it correctly – millions of dollars!
To give you an idea, the highest sum a party receives is 58 million dollars, with the total amounting to almost 430 million dollars; this not only favors corruption, but also strengthen parties already in power since they receive the biggest share. It’s almost as if the system was rigged from the start.
Another difference is that we have 13 official candidates to presidency.
The last one is that we have a 2-phase election system, with the 2 most voted candidates (after a direct vote) facing each other on another date to settle who becomes the next president.
I have no idea why Brazil is not put forward more often as an example of how bad socialism or statist politics are.
Brazil has one of the largest most expensive and ineffective universal healthcare systems in the world and has a very strict gun control in place, banning most citizens from carrying even handguns on them or having one home.
It has strict minimum wage laws controlled by the federal government, monopoly over oil extraction, and labor laws partially imported directly from Fascist Italy.
It offers “free” public universities, which are the biggest in the country and it has all sorts of affirmative action policies in place, having social, gender and racial quotas for spots not only in those universities but also in the public sector. The public sector is where Brazil concentrates the best-paid jobs of the entire country and since public agents of all sorts cannot be fired under almost any circumstance, have high salaries, and almost no responsibility over consequences of their jobs and actions.
All of that works for the worst, with no public service being effective and corruption cases popping so frequently that it made the population numb to its dire consequences.
In 2015, and Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s successor from the Worker’s Party, became the target of a corruption scandal that would culminate with her impeachment the following year.
Operation Car Wash (“Lava Jato” as it was called by the ever so creative Brazilian Federal Police) was already following and catching big names in pretty much every Brazilian party; tracing connections between politicians, especially those who were candidates during the 2014 election and their campaign lobbyists, who injected tons of money in order to get advantages and huge contract deals from the State.
It was then that Petrobras, Brazil’s State owned oil company, became the target of the operation, and Rousseff was part of the board of directors of that company during Lula’s administration.
It was also revealed that SBM Offshore had paid a hundreds of millions of dollars during Rousseff’s first presidential run, whilst she chaired the oil company. All of that peaked with Brazil’s second impeachment.
When Vice-President Temer (MDB) assumed the presidency for the following years, Brazil’s economic situation was already dreadful, and that only increased, which is amazing because you would think a ship could only sink so far, but you would be wrong.
2018 has come, and here are some of the main names worth noting, since Brazil has 13 running for the presidency, currently.
The Social-Liberal Party
Jair Bolsonaro (Social-Liberal Party), is an ex-military captain, and has been a federal congressman for 4 consecutive terms, being the most voted congressman of Rio de Janeiro during the 2014 election. Here is where comparisons with Trump begin.
Bolsonaro is not Trump, that’s for sure. He is not an entrepreneur, or even a civilian with no political background. He gained notoriety for being conservative and making homophobic remarks on public television. That appealed to a younger audience, and to the traditional Brazilian family, which he swears to defend against communism.
Every appearance he’s made has caused outrage and has been met with intense resistance, putting him on top of the polls for both vote intention and rejection rates at once.
A “Women’s March” against Bolsonaro was organized two weeks before election and an #Elenão (“not him”) hashtag was trending on Brazilian social networks over the last month.
Nonetheless, his overall “No BS” attitude has awarded him plenty of comparisons with the current American president, and his campaign specifically addresses him as a breath of fresh air into an old and corrupted institution.
While no concrete evidence of corruption has been put forward to incriminate him, he is definitely far from a fresh change. That has not stopped his run from being impressive however.
While he has very little support outside of his own party (and a small alliance), compared to his counterparts, his main points as a candidate are defending the end of gun control and a resistance to what he calls a “communist wave” that contaminates life in Brazil.
Bolsonaro defends free market, and his Economic advisor is Paulo Guedes, an economist who graduated from the University of Chicago.
Despite that, the candidate has a bad stance on individual liberties.
He is against marijuana legalization and publicly defended a known military torturer active under the dictatorship period, during Rousseff’s impeachment voting session, for the entire country to see.
For that and other reasons, he has constantly been called a fascist, compared to Hitler, was spat on by another congressman and was even stabbed last month by a man who opposed his views during an election rally in Minas Gerais.
Despite all of this, he has gained plenty of momentum and is the most likely to win the election’s 1st phase. He currently has 32% of vote intention.
The Workers’ Party
Bolsonaro’s biggest threat on his way to the election is Fernando Haddad (Workers’ Party), who gained notoriety as the Minister of Education during Lula’s and part of Rousseff’s administrations.
He was the elected mayor of São Paulo until 2017, when he lost his reelection to João Dória on the 1st phase of the run.
Haddad was a big name of MEC, the Ministry of Education and Culture, which controls every level of education in Brazil and the contents of what is taught there, even inside private institutions.
Haddad’s run has been riddled with controversy, since the Worker’s Party’s original plan was to have Lula as the candidate, but he is currently unable to do so, due to his arrest for numerous corruption charges.
Nonetheless, Lula has been present and cited even in the party’s jingle, and the effect of that can be seen in the election numbers, which show Haddad in close second to Bolsonaro.
Funnily enough, the biggest support and ally in this run is MDB, the party who orchestrated Rousseff’s impeachment so that Temer could take her place as president.
Haddad supports taxes on the rich, gun control, more presence of the state in the private life, bigger government and an overall structure that results in increasing spending and bureaucracy by the state. He currently holds 23% of vote intention.
Did I mention that he plans to rewrite the Constitution? Cause he does.
The Workers’ Democratic Party
Close third comes Ciro Gomes (Workers’ Democratic Party), who just recently lost the second spot on all surveys to Haddad. He is no newcomer to politics, since the Gomes family has been in power in the poorest region of Brazil for almost 100 years.
He was Mayor of Fortaleza, Governor of Ceará, Minister of Finance under Itamar Franco’s term, a federal congressman, and the Minister of National Integration during Lula’s administration.
Ciro’s most recent presidential run has been one where he’s positioned himself as an eloquent option for both the left and the right.
He has promised to take millions of people out of debt with a system where some people would pay for lack of payment for loans other people took, a kind of a trust circle, where every 10 people afford mistakes made by others, in a Keynesian nightmare.
Ciro has somehow attracted tons of youngsters to his side, he was very close to going into the 2nd phase of the election against Bolsonaro, according to surveys. That chance has been stained by the candidate’s overall macho posture, constantly filmed fighting protesters during his rallies and even assaulting journalists on two occasions, demanding that one of them be arrested for asking him something he surely did not like.
He has gained millions of dollars for his campaigns during the last 30 years, and most of the companies that financed him became extremely wealthy throughout his mandates.
He believes that the State should control most of the economy and went as far as to say that Uber would be prohibited in the country once he was president.
He once stated that would receive justice officers with lead if they came to arrest any of his party members, and that even though socialism’s implementation killed millions of people, he was willing to take that risk. Last survey showed Ciro Gomes grabbing 10% of vote intention.
Other candidates have struggled to grab more than 5 % of votes according to recent surveys, with Geraldo Alckmin being the top of those.
The physician is a member of the biggest opposition party in Brasil, PSDB, a Social-Democratic party (funnily enough considered right-wing for Brazilian standards), and not far behind him is Marina Silva (Rede), Former Senator and Minister of the Environment under Lula’s term as president.
Lower in the ranks are Henrique Meirelles (Former Central Bank chairman under Lula’s government), Guilherme Boulos (Socialist and Liberty Party), whose main proposition is to support Venezuela’s government and free Lula from prison, and Alvaro Dias (Social Christian Party), a former Senator.
All of them can be connected to Lula one way or another.
I wouldn’t be a proper Libertarian if I didn’t mention the first time runner João Almoêdo, from Novo (New in Portuguese).
His run has been noticeable, as it was his party’s first time ever on the ballot. He managed to grab quite the attention considering that, hitting close to 6% of intentions, and making a name despite not having any TV time to showcase his propositions as a president candidate. Using the internet as his main platform, he supports free market and a voucher system slowly replacing the current universal health and education systems; giving the population more freedom to decide where to spend the money they pay in taxes, and to drastically reduce government costs with staff and bureaucracy, allowing the private sector to compete for that instead.
Even though he will most likely not be featured in the second phase of the election, where the top 2 most voted candidates will face each other, Almoêdo has shown a country that long ago forgot about freedom, if it ever knew about it at all, how responsibility can be more gratifying and rewarding than having a Big Brother to take care of you.
His party is the only one which refused to receive State Party Funding. Not only that, but plenty of candidates from his party are using his notoriety to try to grab seats in every level of the election, from Congress all the way to Governors, and hopefully they will do a good job once they get those spots for themselves.
That is not to say that he is a libertarian all the way. He refuses to talk about marijuana legalization, abortion and other sensitive topics, and has made a few conservative remarks, despite those believes not appearing in his policies so far.
Brazilians elections are ones to be looked upon closely by the rest of the world, because they are another case of how right-wing candidates have gained momentum in response to years of left-wing governments.
This doesn’t mean this is good, from the Libertarian point of view, since conservatives tend to interfere in the private life of citizens and love protectionism; something which might be construed as “true Capitalism” and, once it fails, leave a spot on free market when really there was none to begin with.
That has happened before; especially in South America, and it would be a shame for it to be repeated so soon in history.
Bolsonaro appeared close to losing in every projection during the 2nd phase of the election, but I personally would not count him out yet.
During Trump’s election, people were chastised for voting Republican, and in Brazil it is no different. Voting for Bolsonaro automatically puts you in the group of “deplorables,” and being called fascist, homophobic, and all types of “isms” is the basic MO in that situation which makes people resentful and silent. That turns into something else once you are alone to vote though, and people tend to express themselves more freely then.
All that resentment and disillusion might bite the left in the ass big time in this election, and as much as I love watching them lose, I cannot say that it looks any brighter for democracy in Brazil.
* Igor V. Teixeira is a member of the Being Libertarian social media team.
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