Brazilian municipal elections: Where the left grew, where the liberal right maintained its hegemony

The largest cities in the country, São Paulo (SP) and Rio de Janeiro (RJ) will have a second round of voting on November

November 16, 2020 by Brasil de Fato
Manuela D'Ávila in Porto Alegre and Guilherme Boulos in São Paulo proceed to the 2nd round run off on November 29th. Photo: Screen capture/Brasil de Fato/Facebook

The 2020 municipal elections can be characterized by the strengthening of left-wing parties among the 100 largest cities in the country and the failure of most candidates identified with the ultra-right or supported by President Jair Bolsonaro.

At the same time, the traditional right has gained ground and will likely maintain electoral hegemony in several state capitals.

In seven of these cities, the election was decided in the 1st round with victories for the right and center-right: Belo Horizonte (state of Minas Gerais), Curitiba (Paraná), Natal (Rio Grande do Norte), Palmas (Tocantins), Florianópolis (Santa Catarina), Salvador, (Bahia), and Campo Grande (Mato Grosso do Sul). In the other 18 capitals, there will be a 2nd round.

Deeper look

Fortaleza (state of Ceará), with Capitain Wagner (PROS), and Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro state), with Marcelo Crivella (Republicans), were the only state capitals where Bolsonarism advanced to the 2nd round. On the other hand, in Rio de Janeiro, city councilor candidate Carlos Bolsonaro (Republicans), son of the president, obtained fewer votes than the left winger Tarcisio Motta, from the Freedom and Socialism Party (PSOL); both were elected.

In the progressive field, one of the biggest surprises in the last month of campaigning was the rise of Guilherme Boulos (PSOL) in São Paulo the capital of the state of São Paulo and the largest city in the country. The leader of the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) advanced to the 2nd round with 20.3% of the votes and will face off with current mayor Bruno Covas on November 29.

For Vitor Marchetti, political scientist and professor at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC), the numbers may signal a new moment for the Brazilian left.

“São Paulo demonstrates that the left is alive and is going through a period of repositioning, in which the Workers’ Party (PT) is no longer necessarily its centerpiece, although it continues to be a protagonist, as it has throughout its history,” he explained.

According to him, this repositioning presupposes a broader understanding of the role played by the other political sectors. “The elections show that it is necessary to think about how the left can cope with the center-right, which gradually replaces Bolsonarism in the electoral scenario, having economic power at its disposal.”

One example would be Covas himself, who “will not face a comfortable situation in the second round as the polls signaled,” according to Marchetti.

“The left has the capacity to mobilize and a lot of electoral strength, but the moment demands different characteristics from what we had until the ‘tsunami’ of anti Workers’ Party (PT) sentiments,” concludes the political scientist.

In the largest one hundred cities, PT and PSOL have gained ground and have a chance of winning at least 12 of them.

At the moment, the two parties are not heading the Executive branch of any of the municipalities on the list.

Recife, the capital of Pernanbuco in Brazil’s Northeast will be the only capital with a run off between two progressive candidates: cousins ​​João Campos (PSB) and Marília Arraes (PT). In Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Manuela D’Ávila of the Communist Party (PCdoB) advanced to the second round against Sebastião Melo (MDB).

According to Katia Marko, a journalist from Brasil de Fato in Rio Grande do Sul, the result expresses voters’ “fatigue” with Bolsonarism and the liberal right.

“Porto Alegre has a history of political construction, it hosted the World Social Forum. And the population showed at the polls that they want to take back how we lived during that period and that things have stifled for some time,” she stated.

Marko points out that the left will also be present in the second round in other important cities in the state, such as Caxias do Sul with Pepe Vargas from the Workers’ Party (PT).

“The population is seeing what Bolsonarism is doing to the country, and without a structured network of hate like the one we saw in the 2018 elections, it became easier to showcase the proposals from the progressive field,” the journalist explained.

Gender and race

Of the 44 candidates who will compete in the 2nd round in the capitals, 15 are black and only five are women.

Among the women will be Cinthia Ribeiro (PSDB), in Palmas (Tocantins), the only one going to the run off leading the election in her municipality. Manuela D’Ávila (PCdoB), in Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul), Socorro Neri, in Rio Branco (Acre), Marília Arraes (PSB), in Recife (Pernambuco), and Delegate Danielle (Citizenship), in Aracaju (Sergipe), also remain in the contest.

According to the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), women make up 52.49% of the electorate in the country. In 2016, only one woman was elected to the mayor’s office of a Brazilian capital: Teresa Surita (MDB), in Boa Vista (state of Roraima).

The two Indigenous people who ran for mayor in state capitals, Minoru Kinpara (PSDB), in Rio Branco (Acre), and Vinícius Miguel (Citizenship), in Porto Velho (state of Rondônia), were defeated in the 1st round.

In the city council elections, the Paraná state capital of Curitiba, made history by electing its first black councilwoman, Carol Dartora (PT).