Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – No, we’re not talking about the Scottish Referendum, where (for some) “aye” meant “heart” and “nay” meant “mind”; we’re talking about the Brazilian Presidential Election. Candidate Marina has been portrayed (by some) as the “heart” vote, whereas Candidates Dilma and Aécio have been tarred (or starred) with the “mind” brush.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster

Looking at the early polls, there was an outpouring of sympathy for Marina after she inherited the candidacy of the fallen Eduardo Campos. Based on the 2010 elections, where in the first round Marina won almost 20 million votes, most analysts concluded that a majority of Marina’s voters were already “heart” voters, not “mind” voters.

The Curmudgeon reminds his readers that there is a negative type of “heart” vote as well as a positive. Voters who truly dislike one of the candidates will vote whole-heartedly for another candidate. It’s sometimes called the “ABC” vote—Anyone But Candidate X, pick your X. This is why the polls always show the percentages of how many voters “reject” each of the candidates.

As it happens, Dilma has led the rejection index, followed by Aécio and Marina. This is perhaps unsurprising, after 12 years of Lula/Dilma, and the recent Petrobras scandals, and the street protests a year ago. The problem for both Aécio and Marina is that they must squabble over the AnybodyButDilma votes.

Dilma’s strategy is “mind” based. She knows unemployment is down, which pleases voters; She knows official inflation is still okay with most voters, many of whom remember the hyper-inflationary days before 1994. She knows the income redistribution programs for housing and education are popular amongst the poorest voters. So that’s what she proclaims on her stump speeches (including the one she gave before the UN last week).

Aécio has not been able to win either hearts or minds. His original strategy to make the second round went down in flames with Eduardo Campos’s plane. Worse, Aécio won’t even win his home state of Minas Gerais, where he was Governor. Worse yet, in São Paulo, which Aécio’s party PSDB controls, he’s running third behind Dilma and Marina.

Marina has not been able to formulate a cohesive policy picture, as she’s backtracked too often on important topics. At the “mind” level, both Dilma and Aécio excoriate her lack of any executive experience, and trumpet that she will halt Brazil’s industrial and energy growth with her environmental concerns. At the “heart” level, Dilma says Marina’s supported by “bankers”; Aécio says she’s no different from Dilma—both have Lula as their mentor and PT as their party.

In recent polls, Marina’s support has been wavering and her seemingly invincible lead has now become too close to call, even in the second round. Is this a parallel turn of events to those in Scotland? There, shortly before the referendum, the “hearts” seemed to be pulling ahead, but in the end the “minds” wound up winning 55/45.

The Curmudgeon, notwithstanding his “Done and Dusted” piece a few weeks ago, is no longer convinced Dilma will lose. Her huge advantage in media time has been effective, but in the second round they get equal time. Marina will need all of Aécio’s “mind” supporters as well as all the “heartless” ABD voters; that is looking like quite a challenge.

We’ll be back next week, same time, same station, so stay tuned.

Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON, fetched up on Carioca shores some 37 years ago and still loves them; his favorite spectator sport is politics, viewed from a WASP-like perspective.


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