Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In his June 11th column, the Curmudgeon stated: “Elections will be held in October 2014 throughout Brazil… Although that seems like quite a distance away, it is more than clear that the Presidential campaign has already started. There are four quasi-declared candidates, and one undeclared candidate.”
Four months have now passed, the campaign has begun to heat up and… things have definitely changed. For one thing, protests and demonstrations across the country have reflected drastic changes in the way people view politicians. For another, NSA spying on Brazil’s President and its oil company has had a ripple effect. For yet another, new political parties have been founded — or not founded.
Some things haven’t changed much. The front-runner for President is still the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff; former President Lula continues to deny he’s a candidate at all; Aécio Neves, Eduardo Campos and Marina Silva are still running; and now José Serra has thrown his hat in the ring.
A cartoon brilliantly depicts the current situation — a combination of a three-legged race and a sack race. In one sack (PT) are Dilma and Lula; in another (PSDB) are Aécio and Serra; and in the third (PSB) are Marina and Campos. In short, as of today, the three political parties fielding presidential candidates have not decided who their candidate will be.
The protests affected the situation in two main ways. Protesters claimed that most political parties don’t represent them, so Dilma and PT’s popularity plummeted, as did that of Aécio and Campos. But, like a phoenix, up in the polls rose Marina Silva, then affiliated to no party, the darling of dissatisfied demonstrators.
The NSA spying scandal had a reverse effect. Dilma “postponed” her state visit to Washington, a decided snub to President Obama and the U.S. The postponement received the approval of over ninety percent of the Brazilian population, if polls are to believed, because Dilma stood up to the Yankee Imperialist. That brought her poll ratings back up.
The political party kerfuffle has also changed things drastically. As if 29 or 30 registered political parties weren’t enough, three new groups sprang up, all of them choosing not to include the dreaded “P” word (Party, as in political) in their identifying acronym.
Marina’s crowd created “Rede Sustentabilidade” (Sustainability Network); government supporting dissidents of traditional parties created “PROS” (meaning they’re “pro” rather than “contra”); a labor union challenging CUT and PT created “Solidariedade” (thus aping Lech Walesa’s “Solidarnosc”).
The PROS and the Solidarity parties managed to comply with the rules and were registered before October 7th, so they could participate in the 2014 elections. Marina’s “Rede” did not comply; surprisingly, she opted to ally herself with PSB, the party headed by her theoretical rival Campos.
PT’s avowed candidate is Dilma, but if the economy worsens or if the protests continue apace, Lula may well be its candidate. PSDB knows that Aécio’s name recognition is paltry, so has begun flirting with José Serra, defeated by Dilma in 2010 but widely known.
The joker in this reshuffled deck is PSB. Neither Marina Silva nor Eduardo Campos is saying who will be PSB’s presidential candidate. Marina is still far more popular, but she’s lost some ground among the true believers because she’s now affiliated with a Party with a Capital “P”.
There’s still almost one year to go, things will change still more.