Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Why does the Curmudgeon focus on Brazil’s political parties now? First answer: Because, like Mount Everest, they’re there—boy, are they there! There are 35 registered parties, another fifty or so awaiting authorization, and some 28 represented in the federal Congress or Senate.
Second (and more important) answer: In October 2018, Brazil will have presidential elections. With poll front-runner Lula convicted of corruption, a number of hopeful candidates have sprung up. Because many have little or no executive experience, they will need to rely on political parties to which they are affiliated in order to govern. Sadly, this seems unlikely to occur.
Explanation (short version) of the first answer.
Beginning in 2020, in order to receive government funding and free airtime for their propaganda, parties must have obtained 1.5 percent of the popular vote for federal deputies, in at least nine states. By 2030, the number of political parties should drop to perhaps a dozen.
Explanation (long version) of the second answer.
Many candidates will contest the 2018 presidential election, hoping at least to garner enough votes in the first round to enter into the second round. Most Brazilian voters are in doubt as to whom to choose. The Curmudgeon will consider several potential candidate, most of whom share one common positive feature: they are not generally considered corrupt.
Recent polls uniformly suggest that Jair Bolsonaro is the strongest vote getter after Lula. He has positioned himself on the far right of Brazil’s political spectrum, has changed party affiliation 3 times in the past year, and has finally chosen a minnow-for-hire party.
Marina Silva, twice an unsuccessful presidential candidate, is thinking of running as the left-wing standard-bearer. She broke off from PT, and then took almost 2 years to found Rede. Rede has lots of ideology, but almost no congressional representation.
Joaquim Barbosa was the STF Presiding Justice who was principally responsible for obtaining convictions in the Mensalão corruption scheme. He has no political affiliation nor experience, but he has great name-brand recognition, so many insignificant parties hope he’ll join them.
Luciano Huck is a TV showman, who has thrown his hat into the ring. He has no political affiliation nor experience, but he has great name-brand recognition, so many insignificant parties hope he’ll join them.
Ciro Gomes, a career politician from Ceará and another unsuccessful presidential candidate, is also poised to enter the fray, possibly as Lula’s substitute. He is generally regarded as a loose cannon, and fickle about party affiliation—he has run for office as a candidate of no fewer than seven (7!!) different political parties.
Fernando Collor de Mello, disgraced former president, has risen from the ashes; this time affiliated with another minnow-for-hire political party. Henrique Meirelles, Brazil’s finance minister, and Paulo Rabello, President of BNDES, are also pre-candidates—both were appointed by Temer, but belong to mid-major parties. Rodrigo Maia, the President of the federal Chamber, is running on the DEM banner, which has become a minnow party notwithstanding its long history of success.
The Curmudgeon’s main point is this: Brazilian voters can expect little orientation about choosing their presidential candidate, by reason of their party affiliation. There are far too many parties, and not one of them (save only PT and the left-wing minnows) has any ideological or philosophical leanings.