[WSMDiscuss] Brazil elections: the southern question

Brian brian at radicalroad.com
Wed Oct 5 17:12:54 CET 2022


https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2022/october/the-southern-question <https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2022/october/the-southern-question>
> The Southern Question
> 
> Forrest Hylton </blog/author/forrest-hylton>  · LRB 5 October 2022
> In Porto da Barra, Lula flags waved at the entrances to the beach on Sunday, while part of the crew that works there handed out stickers to passers-by and plastered them on each other. Bolsonaro supporters dressed in yellow and green were few and far between, and, with new reggae songs dedicated to Lula coming out of the soundsystem, Bahia was prepped and ready for a festa. If Bahia were Brasil, that would have happened, since people here voted close to 70 per cent for Lula in the first round of the presidential election, giving him over 3.8 million more votes than Bolsonaro. In Salvador, as in 2018, Bolsonaro did not carry a single district.
> 
> But Bahia is not Brazil. The rest of the north (Amazonas, Pará, Tocantins) and north-east (Maranhão, Ceará, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe) also voted for Lula, but he failed to win outright: his 48.4 per cent was within the margin of error, as both major polls had him at 50 per cent on Saturday. He got more votes (over 57 million) than in the first round of his previous runs for the presidency, although abstention rates were in keeping with general patterns, at 21 per cent.
> 
> Although no one except Bolsonaro had expected Bolsonaro to do better than his highest polling numbers (36 per cent on Saturday), in the event he got 43.2 per cent. As he pointed out, the polls had it wrong (but so did he, having claimed he would take 60 per cent unless fraud was committed). The ‘centrist’ candidates, Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet, got fewer votes than predicted and Bolsonaro seems to have picked up many of their supporters. He won across the south-east (Rio and São Paulo) and cut Lula’s poll lead in half in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s demographic centre of gravity and of political-economic-cultural power. He was seven points (close to two million votes) ahead of Lula in São Paulo, especially in rich districts of the city and in the state’s interior, and over ten points (just under a million votes) ahead in Rio, especially in poor districts of the city. Lula’s margin in Minas was less than 600,000 votes.
> 
> In other words, Bolsonaro did much better in Brazil’s most economically developed, industrial and urbanised region than forecast (though not as well as he did against Haddad in 2018); he performed at the same level nationally as he did four years ago. As predicted, he took the west and centre-west, where the agribusiness, logging and mining lobbies that backed his campaign operate at highest voltage: Rondônia, Acre, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul. Nine out of ten of his leading campaign contributors were from the agribusiness sector.
> 
> He also appears to have done well among the remarkably heterogeneous subset of voters earning between two and ten times the minimum wage; an undetermined number of these are evangelical. Overall, 30 per cent of Brazilians are evangelical, and their pastors and endless barrages of WhatsApp messages told them Lula was going to close their churches.
> 
> The second round will be fought tooth and nail, house to house and block to block, especially in Minas Gerais, but also in Rio and São Paulo, particularly in the interior – one of my graduate students said it would be like ‘Stalingado’.
> 
> Lula’s running mate, Geraldo Alckmin of the centre-left PSB, a former governor of São Paulo, has his work cut out for him; he ran a dirty campaign against Lula in the 2006 presidential elections. Rodrigo Garcia, the head of the centre-right PSDB, has declared for Bolsonaro, but in doing so has split the party. The PT may still forge an alliance of necessity with the majority of the PSDB, which has deep clientelist networks throughout the state of São Paulo. The same is true in Rio Grande do Sul. While such pacts are important, the ability to reach voters at the grassroots matters even more.
> 
> Abstract themes – the defence of democracy, civilisation v. barbarism – will probably be shelved in favour of concrete policy proposals to tax the rich to pay for social programmes and public services, including public security. People are worried about inflation, the cost of food, fuel, employment and housing, and getting shot or robbed. Even in Salvador, a recent march in defence of democracy was tiny, if spirited and colourful. The citizens I spoke to on the pavements and in the praças had not heard about the march, and were unclear what it was about. When I tried to explain, it was not the limits of my Portuguese, real as they are, that barred understanding.
> 
> As in Naples and Calabria a century ago, as Gramsci noted, the contest over conservative southern territory is broadly cultural-ideological, the terrain in dispute consisting of norms, ideals, aspirations and values, as well as popular religion in relation to political power. In the south and south-east, the evangelical churches have a remarkable capacity to get out the vote – as do far-right narco-militias, particularly in Rio – and Bolsonaro speaks, as fascists do, in the name of God, Family and Country.
> 
> Lula appears to be embracing, and being embraced by, the Brazilian establishment once again, represented by the bankers of Faria Lima, on the one hand, and Caetano Veloso on the other: but captains of finance and kings of popular music, it transpires, do not get out the vote in the south-east. Nor do younger Afro-Brazilian celebrities like Lázaro Ramos and Emicida, the former head of Brazil’s central bank, or former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso. As Stalin might have asked, ‘how many battalions do they have?’
> 
> With luck, the north-east, where mass street demonstrations have characterised Lula’s campaign, will become the model for the south and south-east. Lula will have to argue that if the themes are patriotism, family values and belief in God, he is the model citizen, not Bolsonaro, who uses his office to help his family commit crimes against the nation. He also has to convince evangelicals he does not plan to close their churches. Popular nationalism, with mass mobilisations across the country, may yet be able to beat back neo-fascism, backed by fake news, in its regional strongholds.
> 
> In terms of horse trading, Lula and Alckmin will have to offer ministries to both the leading centrist candidates; and Gomes’s party, the PDT, has demanded and obtained the inclusion of the three main planks of its platform in exchange for its support, though who knows if Gomes can (or wants to) reel in those of his supporters who voted for Bolsonaro because of anti-petismo. Tebet and the centre-right MDB are signalling support for Lula, but it remains to be seen what those who voted for her – as well as those who told pollsters they supported her, but voted for Bolsonaro on Sunday – do on 30 October.
> 
> The PT and allied parties picked up eighty seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PT also won three governorships (Rio Grande do Norte, Piauí, and Ceará) and is in the run-off for four more (Bahia, Sergipe, Santa Catarina, and São Paulo); allies have Amapá, Maranhão, Paraná, the Distrito Federal and Pará. The PT did brilliantly in the state assemblies in São Paulo and Paraná. Bolsonaro’s allies, however, won eight gubernatorial races, and every one of Bolsonaro’s congressional candidates outperformed poll predictions by a significant margin. His party, the PL, is now the largest in the lower house, with 99 seats, and allied parties bring the total to 190 deputies, including Bolosonaro’s former environment minister, Ricardo Salles, who saw the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate the burning of the Amazon.
> 
> Bolsonaristas won 20 of 27 senatorial races (a third of the 81 seats were in contention). They include Bolsonaro’s former justice minister Sergio Moro; his former health minister General Pazuello; the former minister and evangelical pastor Damares Alves; and former vice-president General Mourão.
> 
> The traditional right and center-right has been swept away by more or less fascist formations, which could be here to stay. More Afro-Brazilian deputies now come from one of the far-right parties than the traditional right, the centre-left and the left put together, demonstrating the complexity of racial politics in Brazil, especially in relation to evangelical churches.
> 
> At Porto da Barra, guarded optimism prevails: some people have voted Lula since the late 1980s, others are more recent enthusiasts, while others would prefer not to vote Lula-PT, but consider bolsonarismo beyond the pale, and fear a second term. All have seen Lula campaign in a second round before; many have faith that no one can do it better. The beach was crowded on Monday evening, with people partying and singing as the sun set over the South Atlantic. Red Lula stickers are everywhere.
> 
> I spoke to a man who now rents out beach umbrellas but grew up barefoot, slashing and burning and planting manioc in the Bahian interior. He abstained from the first round, which went as he predicted, but will be voting for Lula in the second. He thinks that Lula, the PT and their allies need to convince voters they can reindustrialise the country and get people back to work by lowering corporate taxes but taxing high-net-worth individuals, to pay for education and healthcare and create secure jobs. That way they can win the elections and bring Brazil back from the dead. But the second round, like the first, will be decided not in Salvador or the north-east, but in the south-east, in the interior of São Paulo and Minas, and in Rio’s favelas.
> 
Forrest Hylton  teaches history in the graduate school at the Universidade Federal da Bahia.

_____________
Blog: https://murphyslog.ca
Twitter:  @BrianKMurphy2 







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