As the World Cup is past and gone, Brazilians start driving their attention to the 2018 elections. Every four years the people elect the president, the state governors, a part of the Senate (two thirds in this election), the federal deputies and the state deputies. Even if the national and the regional elections are related, and the alliances consider aspects from both, it is the presidential election that we will focus on here (and given the complexity an election presents in a country with Brazil’s dimensions, it could not have been any different).
In the last few years a political and institutional crisis revoked a president without a justification for such extreme measure and made agents of government bodies (as the Federal Police, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary) behave in partisanship, disrespecting citizen guarantees and due legal process. Yet another example of exceptional leanings is the imprisonment of the former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the man that ranks at first place in all the presidential election pollings, not excluding a victory on the first round of voting. The legal process resulting in his incarceration has very fragile elements to justify a sentence. In a second process, ruled by a different judge, Lula and other defendants were acquitted. From what it seems, Lula will not be able to run for presidency. The Brazilian right will be free from facing a rival to which it would probably lose.
In the wake of Operation Car Wash (the investigation on corruption that started in the state oil company Petrobras and moved onto other areas of public management), a wave of punitivism set the tone for the work of many judges and prosecutors. The latter ones made a move on political parties and the big companies that work with public projects. In alliance with the big media, sectors of part of the state machinery (the police, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary) started to hold great power, to use it politically and to cause political instability and huge economic and social loss to Brazil.
Brazil has a multiparty political structure that, since 1994, has been organized around two hegemonic parties, one to the left and one to the right, the Worker’s Party (“PT” in the Portuguese acronym) and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (“PSDB”), being the latter the winner of two presidential races and the first of four. Most of the other parties (the exceptions being smaller left parties), even if they’re from conservative stances, are partaking in cronyism and are eminently interested in sharing spaces in government, be it in direct administration or in state companies. The so-called “centrão” (a superlative for center, referring to the center in the political spectrum and highlighting its size), actually consisting of center-right and right parties, joined the leftist PT in exchange for, as indicated above, participation in the government; it has also fulfilled the role of “moat” in between the Worker’s Party and more leftist positions. The parties from the “centrao” have announced recently their support to the PSDB candidate to the presidency, Geraldo Alckmin. The former governor of Brazil’s main state, Sao Paulo, has up to this point very low numbers (around 7%) in voters intention. He is not even in first place in Sao Paulo. PSDB’s bet, also the bet of an important part of the economic elite that support him, is that this party support (in Brazil each party in entitled to a certain airing time on TV and on the radio, according to its size in the National Congress) will propel the candidacy of the toucan (the tucan is the bird that represents PSDB). However, Alckmin was also reached by Operation Car Wash with charges of slush funding, as it happened to his party. There has been an enormous straining of PSDB’s image, and it has started to lose votes to other candidates in the right, especially Jair Bolsonaro, the candidate farthest to the right in the presidential race. Alckmin’s platform in government is very similar to the current president’s, Michel Temer’s, and proposes giving continuity to the neoliberal reforms. The economic and social situation has visibly worsened in Brazil in the last two years. The Temer government is the most impopular government in the history of the country. Assuredly PT and the other left parties will exploit in their campaigns the PSDB’s support to Temer and the content of its platform for its anti-popular and anti-national positions. There is, therefore, serious doubts over the feasibility of the PSDB’s campaign, even with the recently obtained political support.
The “centrão” made an agreement with PSDB so that it could nominate a vice-president, in addition to securing the current president of the Deputy Chamber, and probably granting the votes to elect the next president of the Senate in the future. These positions have been filled by PT and MDB (Temer’s party), mainly the latter, in the 13 years in which PT was in government. The “centrão” is proposing a new political pact, in conservative foundations, and settling, from the beginning, strong dependency on a future Alckmin government in this cronyist basis. Many politicians of these parties are under investigation or implicated in legal processes. The new pact will definitely involve legislative paths and measures to warrant impunity for many of them. The “centrão” is now with Alckmin, but it will adapt to the next president in its search for placements in power, even if the next head of government is someone from the left. Said leftist will certainly not have the majority in the National Congress and, with the cronyist parties in the right, will have to constitute an expressive part of the Brazilian parliament.