By Lucy Jordan, Contributing Reporter
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – The 2012 Brazilian municipal elections will not take place until October but with rifts between staunch allies, and political rivals forging unexpected deals, this year’s elections have already taken on national significance. There are over 5,566 municipalities in Brazil where voting will determine mayors, deputy mayors and city councilors – and the race has started.
In São Paulo state, the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers’ Party) has built alliances with its rival in the federal government, Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, Brazilian Social Democracy Party), in 54 cities, according to a survey of electoral records conducted by Folha.
Another pact garnering considerable attention is that between Fernando Haddad, PT candidate for mayor in São Paulo and Paulo Maluf, federal representative of the Partido Progressista (PP, Progressive Party).
The union was engineered by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and has surprised many commentators, as Maluf’s long career was blighted by accusations of corruption. He is currently wanted by Interpol regarding allegations of fraud, theft, forgery and money laundering and can be arrested upon entering any of the 181 countries that are Interpol members – but not in Brazil.
The controversial partnership has already caused one political casualty. Luiza Erundina of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party), who was running as Haddad’s Vice-Mayor, said that this alliance with Maluf’s PP was “unacceptable” and resigned late in June.
But experts say voters should not be surprised to see alliances such as these, as politics is a game of pragmatism as much ideology. “Politics makes for strange bedfellows,” said David Fleischer, Professor of political scientist at the University of Brasilia. “When you look at the rationale of these alliances, you can understand what advantage can be extracted for each party.”
Lula has also been somewhat awkwardly involved in the contest for Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, throwing his support behind incumbent Eduardo Paes of the PT-allied Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) a month before the campaign officially began on July 5th and earning them both R$5,000 fines.
Most significant nationally, analysts say, is the implosion of the PT-PSB alliance that is playing out in three state capital cities. In Recife, Fortaleza and Belo Horizonte the coalition has been broken, and the two parties will field rival candidates.
Analysts say that the rift signals the intentions of PSB president and governor of Pernambuco Eduardo Campos to make a bid for the presidency or the vice-presidency in 2014.
“It seems Campos has evaluated Dilma [Rousseff] and decided she’s in bad shape because of the economy,” said Mr. Fleischer. “If PSB expands a lot during the municipal election…he might go into the ring in 2014 either as president or as a vice president.
Supporters of Rousseff say Campos’s political maneuvering is immature – in an interview with Folha last week, vice-President Michel Temer alluded indirectly to Campos, saying, “The hasty eat raw.”
But analysts say the developments could have significant repercussions for the 2014 presidential race, as those politicians elected as mayors and city council members will work to help their colleagues get elected during the federal campaign two years later, and vice versa.
“If political parties increase their numbers of mayors and city council numbers in the municipal election they will probably increase their number of deputies two years later and vice versa,” said Mr. Fleischer. “There is a very strong link.”