In Rio, oldtime politician faces twenty-first-century challenges
Incumbent President Dilma Rousseff eked out a victory with a mere 3% edge on opponent Aécio Neves, bringing in 54 million votes. A markedly high 27.7% — 37 million — did not choose a candidate (blank, null or no-show votes), as opposed to 106 million who voted for either Dilma or Aécio.
The central message of the 52% to 48% result is that the historic division between the upper and lower classes, now more clearly revealed than ever, drives Brazilian politics. Much of Aécio’s vote came from critics of corruption practiced by the Workers’ Party, but deep distrust of the values and the class that he represents, among those outside of it, weighed heavily on his performance.
“The great fallacy of this campaign was Aécio Neves speaking for ‘a unified country'”, writes columnist Francisco Bosco in today’s O Globo. “It doesn’t exist. It never existed. And the only chance we have to make it exist is to deepen consciousness of the division and of measures to repair it.”
Mistrust permeates all relations in Brazil, undermining collective action, individual initative and negotiations between interest groups. It will take generations to overcome, in this blogger’s opinion.
In Rio, Dilma did well (as RioRealblog predicted), with 55% of the vote compared to 45% for Aécio, particularly in comparison to São Paulo, where Aécio racked up 64% agaisnt her 36%.
Largely because of the 2016 Olympic Games, relations between Brasília and Rio de Janeiro are likely to continue to favor the state, which receives significant federal funds for housing, transportation and sanitation investment.
Though inflation is higher here than in other states, the oil and gas sector and preparation for the Games will buffer what looks to be a serious national economic downturn in 2015.
Despite widespread criticism of the state public safety policy, incumbent Governor Luiz Fernando “Pezão” (Bigfoot) Souza won a 56% victory over his opponent Senator Marcello Crivella, a candidate with ties to the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, an international evangelical movement that has been accused of fraud and money-laundering.
[update] Rio was the only state in the nation where more voters chose no one for governor than voted for the winner. While Pezão’s 4,343,298 votes total 36% of the electorate, 4,348,950 people went the route of blank, null or no-shows. In a brilliant Folha de São Paulo column published Monday, Gregório Duvivier characterized the choice as being between a militia candidate and a church candidate. There’s no outright proof that Pezão has anything to do with Rio’s powerful paramilitary groups, but politics (and policing) in Rio certainly include their participation.
Pezão, originally vice-governor, took office this past April in a PMDB party bid for continuity, when Sérgio Cabral stepped down, in the wake of loud criticism and corruption accusations. The former managed the tricky combination of distancing himself from Cabral, while running on the basis of his accomplishments.
For Rio de Janeiro voters, Pezão’s victory represents grudging recognition that pacification — the public safety policy implemented starting in late 2008 that brought down violence levels with the creation of police pacification units in 38 informal areas of the state capital — should continue. The policy is likely to undergo significant change and expansion (beyond the capital) in Pezão’s new term, and current Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame may not stay on in the job. According to O Globo newspaper, his undersecretary, Roberto de Sá, may succeed him.
Pezão, with his easygoing get-the-job-done style, is likely to cultivate positive relations with Rio de Janeiro city hall and the state legislature. Notably, he has already moved to work on thorny metropolitan issues, with the creation this past August of a Câmara Metropolitana de Integração Governamental (metropolitan governmental integration council), that will focus on transportation and sanitation.
Here are Pezão’s campaign promises. He is also hoping to enlist the aid of the city of Rio to fund the further extension of Line 4 of the metro, in Barra.
Like most Brazilian politicians, Pezão has been investigated and found guilty of corrupt practices, and has engaged in shady and shifting political alliances. So far, like most, he’s a hardy survivor. To attack the state’s policy challenges (note that the state industrial federation says education is a priority), he says he’ll have a team put together by December. Meanwhile, here’s a piece on those closest to Pezão at the moment.
Below, if you understand Portuguese, don’t miss the comedy troupe Porta dos Fundos’ take on the election:
According to some, the political jockeying involving the 2014 gubernatorial elections was a stumbling block for the city’s Morar Carioca favela upgrade program, which was supposed to bring all housing in the city’s informal areas up to standard by 2020. It remains to be see if, now that the vote is in, the program will begin to gear up significantly — or if it has found a permanent resting place in Mayor Eduardo Paes’ drawer.