Brazil elections 2014: Dilma hangs on to the nation by 3% and Bigfoot takes Rio

In Rio, oldtime politician faces twenty-first-century challenges


Peaceful polling, despite deep division


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.

Rio State

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.

Earlier this year, RioRealblog interiewed Sá for a video and a post about favela alleys.

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.

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Brazil elections 2014: Dilma hangs on to the nation by 3% and Bigfoot takes Rio

  1. G says:

    Julia, first of all, I love your blog. I think you write excellent articles and I love to read texts about Brazil and Rio in English.

    I’m 25 years old and I’ve always lived in Cosme Velho. Yes, Cosme Velho is still part of Zona Sul, just like Laranjeiras, Botafogo, Flamengo, etc. This means my family wasn’t wealthy enough to move to Leblon and live in a four-bedroom apartment, but still managed to enroll me at one of the top Catholic schools in Rio. My brother studied at PUC with a huge discount, whereas I got to go to UFRJ. Sorry; I don’t mean to be mean or prejudicious, but there is a whole different perception from what’s happened in Brazil for the past years from the eyes of those living in Ipanema – Leblon from the eyes of other Rio residents. This is not class warfare, but rather an analysis of mine.

    By studying at UFRJ, I could see the improvements made during the Lula years. Older students say the Law School looked like a post-war Berlin building before Lula took office and during the five years I studied there (2007-2011), there was a huge investment in structure. More professors were hired; perhaps like never before. I even got a scholarship for supporting LGBT rights on campus and got to travel to Germany for a Human Rights course. In the 1990s, UFRJ would be seen as a decadent university. Strikes would take place all the time, students would fear its campuses. This has changed dramatically, especially in the tech buildings within the Ilha do Fundão campus. I don’t mean it’s become a world class university – it hasn’t – but it has improved and wasn’t left in a corner like in the PSDB years . However, for some reason, many people don’t know this and I find it especially common in the Ipanema – Gávea area.

    In the 1990s, my family couldn’t afford having a decent car; we’d have to have a old, used, car. We were in debt. Mom had to go to school to negotiate school tuitions. And I’m not poor, but government policies weren’t good to us.

    What I mean is that many people voted for Dilma, not only the poor. The middle middle classes, people from “Zona Média” like me, are scared of the PSDB. Even if many of them disapprove Dilma, it’s just scary to deal with a presidential candidate that only blames Dilma for “corruption”, “unfinished works”, but doesn’t recognize the good changes this country experienced in the Lula and Dilma years. In my opinion, Aécio has lost due to the fact that he didn’t target people like me, but rather his very own supporters, who have always traveled to Orlando, have always studied at the same private universities and don’t deal with other social classes much – including the other subclasses of this large ,and heterogeneous “middle class”. Aécio should’ve supported the good aspects of Lula-Dilma, showing the people that this model needs to be improved with a larger participation of the private sector, as well as reforms, which can be done without damaging social rights that much – it’s what the PSDB originally stood for.

    Sorry for the long text. It’s just that I think the poor versus rich war was created by PSDB supporters. Not by Dilma.

    Finally, I voted for Aécio, as I clearly saw that he had good ideas – which were not clearly exposed on his campaign. But I can understand those who feared this campaign, for the reasons written above.


    PS: I think the article written by Leonardo Souza for Folha de São Paulo today (Oct. 28th) is an excellent article on Aécio’s loss.

  2. ARvWD says:

    As always, lucid and informative. And I See others think so too. Keep up the good work!

  3. Rio real says:

    Thank you, G and ARvWD. I read the Folha article and I agree with it, G. Lots of people live in bubbles in Brazil (and in all the world), and have for a long time. The challenge now is to promote the encounter of people who think they have little in common with each other. I hope that this happens at UFRJ, and with your children and grandchildren. Your description of the university is certainly heartening! And now for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools.. . hehehe I know they aren’t run by Brasília but they must also provide a real education.

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