This text seeks to analyse the results of the general elections (October 2014) in Brazil1. Without claiming to explain the whole complexity of aspects of the current political situation in Brazil, this article looks to demonstrate – mainly to non-Brazilians – the meanings behind some of the results of the last general elections.
But what do the votes really tell us? Is there a balance of forces in Brazil so fierce? Is Brazil joining the “club of countries politically polarized”? After the result, the PSDB2 and several opposition groups protested on the election result. Some even asked for impeachment of the President, while others asked for a military intervention.
Balance of power or polarized country?
The last Brazilian presidential election has certainly been one of the most competitive in history. With an extremely competitive electoral campaign President Dilma Rousseff (PT3) got 51.64% of the votes and her re-election while Senator Aécio Neves (PSDB) in turn won 48.36% of the votes. There was only a difference of 3.4 million votes. This has been the smallest difference of votes in a second round since the re-democratization of the country.
Performance of candidates by States
The performance of candidates in states was quite fierce. President Dilma Rousseff won in 15 states, while Senator Aécio Neves won in 12 states. Considering the total number of states (27) President Dilma Rousseff won 55% versus 44% of the votes for the opposition senator.
Despite the final victory of President Dilma Rousseff Senator Aécio Neves was the favourite of the electorate in the west-central, south-east and southern regions of the country. Furthermore, he suffered a “defeat with a taste of victory” especially by the clear victory that he obtained in São Paulo, the largest state of the federation.
However, even losing in important states, President Dilma Rousseff has achieved significant results, which always reached a minimum of 35% of the total votes of each state.
It is very interesting to take a look at the states and their population size. From this perspective, the contradictions reappear on the identification of the governors elected by the opposition. Even with only 6 to 8 governors of the opposition, the opposition parties will represent about 88 million people, considering the PSB4 also as opposition party. That is approximately 43% of the total population including the so-called “locomotive state” of the country, the State of São Paulo, where Senator Aécio Neves was victorious, as well as the re-elected opposition Governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) potential presidential candidate in the future.
Performance of candidates in cities
When analysing the results of the presidential election in cities, one can see that even if President Dilma Rousseff won the election in most cities, these were small towns. In this sense, she lost in most of the large cities and in state capitals.
Among the 5,570 Brazilian municipalities, President Dilma Rousseff won in 3,527 (63.32%). Thus, she had an advantage of 1,484 cities compared to her opponent, who in turn won in 2,043 cities (36.68%), but among these were the most important and populous cities of the country.
Parliamentary support of Rousseff
Analysing the parliamentary elections held simultaneously with the presidential election, we see that President Dilma Rousseff ensured parliamentary majority in both houses (Senate and House of Representatives).
The Brazilian House of Representatives had 22 parties in 2010 and will have 28 parties by 2015 – perhaps the largest number among the Western democracies. The ruling coalition managed to elect 304 deputies (36 less than the first time).
With 304 deputies, President Dilma Rousseff won about 59% of the representatives of the House. However, when compared to the beginning of her first term, President Dilma Rousseff should have enough pressure related to the relative growth of the opposition, increasing disintegration of the allied base and a certain spraying of the political parties due to the large number of political parties participating in the Parliament, especially in the House of Representatives.
On the other hand, in the Senate, in 2010 President Dilma Rousseff began her first term with about 60 allies, while now she starts her second term government with about 52 allies, who supported her campaign from the first round of the election.
This number of senators (52) represents about 65% of all senators. Thus, even losing support compared to her first term, President Dilma Rousseff has more supporters in the Senate than in the House of Representatives.
Anyway, the trends above show similarities. President Dilma Rousseff should have a little more trouble dealing with the senators, due to the same aforementioned aspects in the House of Representatives of the Parliament: a growing opposition, allied base disintegration and the excessive number of political parties. All aspects summed are complicating factors in terms of negotiation with parliamentarians in the second term of President Dilma Rousseff.
Media and controversial issues
With guaranteed parliamentary majority, but with support decreasing, with most allied governors, but with growing rejection in states and major cities, in her second term, President Dilma Rousseff will also have to deal with the growing lack of patience of the mainstream media and in civil society organizations.
In addition to the overall results of the election, several topics were deeply debated during the election race. The situation of the Truth Commission related to the past of the military dictatorship and the corruption in State Companies, especially the Oil Company Petrobrás are only the highlighted examples. Economy, labour, agriculture, agrarian reform, education, health, hunger, international relations, women rights, anti-racism issues, gay rights, sustainable energy and environmental issues are all topics which were daily and strongly discussed by the public.
Not only the mainstream media, but during the election, the internet and social media emerged as an important element, which was – for many – crucial in this respect.
With a vigorous growth in terms of internet access, most of the Brazilian internet users are linked to social media. With numbers comparable to the US, Japan, China and India, Brazil is one of the biggest markets for social media and networks worldwide. During the electoral campaign, Facebook has been the most important one, but Twitter, You Tube and WhatsApp also had a significant impact during the electoral process.
Thus, the candidates organized professional web campaigns and decisively invested in them, organizing specialized teams. Both candidates who competed in the second round have profiles on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube with millions of followers.
The growing internet and NTICs5 access allowed fundamentally more fluxes and exchange of ideas. The intensification of the political debate was unique in history, reaching circles of friends and families in ways never seen before in Brazil in terms of democratic participation. Resuming, the Internet enabled faster dynamics of campaigns for Brazilian politics.
The debate stimulated more dynamic, contradictory and democratic ideas clashing especially with the interests of oligarchs and mainstream media groups such as TV channels, major radio channels, magazines and newspapers in the country. In the last years the mainstream media groups have seen a huge decreasing of their audience. Though they remain very important in the country, now they have to deal with this new dynamic situation with a higher level of interaction with the population. This is something unusual for mainstream media groups which were accustomed to have a lower level of interaction and contradictions with the Brazilians.
Many political experts and journalists even said that the victory of President Dilma Rousseff would not have been possible if the internet access had not expanded in recent years. Certainly, President Dilma Rousseff will have a hard struggle with the mainstream media groups, which in the election clearly supported the opposition candidate.
Finally, President Dilma Rousseff had no peaceful moment with the opposition after her victory, as well as with her “allied parties”. With the challenge to form the new government, the struggle with parliamentarians started with a lot of blackmail to approve the next House’ President, to indicate new Ministers, and to approve the next LDO6 to 2015. By the way, the three battles just show the clientelistic structure logic of lobbies and bargains deeply rooted in Brazil.
1) TSE: Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (Supreme Electoral Court).
2) PSDB: Partido da Social-Democracia Brasileira (The Brazilian Social-Democracy Party is main Opposition Party, centre-right, party of the Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso – that ruled 1995 until 2002).
3) PT: Partido dos Trabalhadores (The Workers Party is main centre-left party of the country. Currently, is the leadership of the ruling coalition of the Federal Government since 2003, when President Lula da Silva assumed the Presidential Office).
4) PSB: Partido Socialista Brasileiro (The Brazilian Socialist Party, theoretically the second most important party of the centre-left political parties’ field. In the last presidential election had the Governor Eduardo Campos as candidate, but tragically he died during the electoral campaign, being substituted by her vice-candidate, the former Ms. Senator Marina Silva, former PT and former Greens member).
5) NTICs: New Technologies of Information and Communication.
6) LDO: Lei de Diretrizes Orçamentárias (Budgetary Guidelines Law).
33, Brazilian, Sociologist (Escola de Sociologia e Política de São Paulo), Master of Labour Policies and Globalisation (Kassel’ University – Germany). Student of the Master in Latinamerica Studies inVienna.