By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s municipal elections on Sunday produced more than winners and losers, it revealed a significant apathy by voters with the entire political class. According to official data from the country’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) more than 25 million eligible voters chose to stay home. This was the highest abstention rate in the country’s history.
“There is a general disillusionment, no doubt, with the political class,” commented Brazilian President Michel Temer to journalists on Monday while visiting his Argentine counterpart, Mauricio Macri, in Buenos Aires. “We have 35 parties in the country. Almost all of them with candidates to municipal governments. Still, the abstention was really significant.”
Data from the TSE shows that the highest percentage of abstentions was in the city of Rio de Janeiro, 24.28 percent, followed by Porto Alegre (22.51 percent) and São Paulo (21.84 percent). The lowest rates were observed in Manaus (8.59 percent), Victoria (10.76 percent) and Recife (11.31 percent). Voting in Brazil is mandatory for all Brazilians between the ages of 18 and 70 years old.
Others, who did go to the polls on Sunday, chose to nullify their vote, or register a blank ballot. In cities like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte there were more non-valid votes than votes for those who came in first or second in the race.
For Vera Chaia, professor at the Department of Political Science at Catholic University of São Paulo(PUC) , the results reflect the distrust of voters with the political class. “Although there has been some change in the political scene, it was not substantial. The same political group remains in power under the government of President Michel Temer,” Chaia was quoted as saying by Agencia Brasil.
Analysts say that the same pattern of high absenteeism and null/blank votes are likely to be registered during second round of elections, scheduled for October 30th for those municipalities with a run off election.
“This is a message, a message to Brazil’s political class to review any inadequate practices,” concluded President Temer.