What’s at stake in Brazil’s municipal elections this Sunday

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Foto: Marri Nogueira/Agência Senado
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The first elections since Bolsonaro took office are marred by the pandemic and fragmentation within the left


The municipal elections, originally scheduled for October, were postponed to Sunday November 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The change was approved by the National Congress in July.


The COVID-19 health crisis in the country, far from being under control, is one of the factors that might lead to greater abstention in this Sunday’s election, although voting is mandatory for all Brazilian citizens over 18 years of age. In the 2018 presidential elections, more than 20% of the electorate did not vote.


Below, Brasil de Fato presents a brief overview of the electoral dispute, marked by the diminishing power of Bolsonaro’s influence and fragmentation within the left in some of the country’s most important state capitals.


Political camps


In Sunday’s municipal elections, three main political camps will face off.


The Bolsonarista bloc, formed by diverse political forces, but linked by their support of the Bolsonaro government and aligned with the political aspirations of the far-right, intends to establish itself in the municipal political scenario. It is a relatively new emerging force in the country and seeks to consolidate an electoral base to pave the way for Bolsonaro’s re-election in 2022.


The progressive area, made up of heterogeneous political forces, participates in the electoral dispute in a very fragmented way, despite successive defeats after the coup against Dilma Rousseff.


Former President Lula da Silva’s party (PT) seeks to maintain its hegemonic position in the progressive bloc, but without any competitive candidates in state capitals. Of the 9 capitals in which the progressive bloc is likely to advance to a second round dispute, at the moment, only two will be headed by the PT.


In some capitals, the PSOL party has tried to consolidate itself as an alternative to PT’s hegemony. In Belém, the Pará state capital, Edmilson Rodrigues of the PSOL leads the polls with 38%.


In São Paulo, another candidate from this left-wing party, Guilherme Boulos, is technically tied in second place with the candidate supported by Bolsonaro, Celso Russomano, with 13% and 12% support in the polls, respectively.


The current mayor of São Paulo, Bruno Covas (PSDB) leads the race polling at 32%, according to a poll released last Monday November 9.


In Recife, the Pernambuco state capital, located in Brazil’s northeast, progressives arrive at the polls split in two. Candidates and cousins João Campos (PSB) and Marília Arraes (PT), are running for the city hall and vying for the family’s, as well as the left’s legacy in the region.


In Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the progressive field has real chances of winning with Manuela D’Ávila (Communist Party), leading the polls. D’Ávila was the vice-presidential candidate on the ticket headed by Fernando Haddad (PT), in the 2018 presidential elections.


The traditional right, which unites political forces that propose to be a third way among the other two blocs, seeks to reposition itself after the astounding defeat it suffered in 2018, when it was displaced from its usual political space by Bolsonarism.


Bolsonaro’s influence


The protagonist and main driving force behind the rise of the far-right in Brazil during the 2018 elections, President Jair Bolsonaro has seen his influence decrease dramatically in this year’s municipal elections.


The president, who has been without a political party since he left PSL in November 2019, had little influence on building alliances in Brazilian municipalities.


In the main state capitals of the country, candidates supported by Bolsonaro, more or less explicitly, are slipping in the election polls. Among the names associated with Bolsonaro is Celso Russomanno (Republicans), a mayoral candidate in São Paulo.


However, it is possible that Bolsonaro’s influence will lead to the ascension of the far-right in municipal legislatures. Bolsonarism has been able to form an army of councilors occupying municipal legislatures, reverberating the neo-fascist ideology in the most remote places in the country, according to Lucio Centeno, of the left-political force Consulta Popular.


2020 Election numbers


Men represent more than two-thirds of the candidates for mayor and city council members (66.90% men and 33.10% women), according to the “Panorama of municipal elections – Map of candidates 2020” study.


Although women make up more than 52% of the electorate, of the 317 mayoral candidacies in 26 Brazilian state capitals in 2020, only 57, or 23%, will be led by them.


The scenario is not very different in relation to the number of black candidates, although more than 56% of the population declares itself to be black. A survey conducted by Brasil de Fato, points out that among contenders in Brazil’s capitals, 208 are white (65.61%), 107 are black (33.75%) and 2 are indigenous (0.6%).


Only 20 black women will compete for the office of mayor of the 26 Brazilian capitals in 2020. In relation to the total number of candidates (317) they are 6.3%. Compared to the number of black candidates (107), they represent only 18.6%.


For writer and journalist Bianca Santana, the numbers are “terrible” and show “the position that black women occupy within the parties.”


“It is a reaffirmation of the racism and sexism of the white and hetero-patriarchal institutional policy, we have just over 6% of black women candidates running for mayor in the capitals, when we are about 25% of the population,” he said.




In the first round of municipal elections, held this Sunday November 15, voting without a mask will not be allowed. The time to go to the polls will be extended, from 7 am to 5 pm (local time) to distribute the flow and avoid large gatherings. Lines will have to adhere to a distance of at least one meter between people.


The Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) also determined that the hours from 7 am to 10 am will be reserved for people over 60, who are part of the COVID-19 high risk groups.


The Brazilian Constitution establishes that there must be a second round of elections when none of the candidates obtain more than half of the valid votes in the first round. The second round is scheduled for November 29.


The results of the first round will be released a few hours after the end of the vote, as the country has had a 100% electronic electoral system since the 1996 municipal elections.





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