Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Okay, okay, the Curmudgeon was wrong. The post two short weeks ago said there wouldn’t be a second round, because “Dilma will be elected President on the first ballot October 3rd” but Dilma didn’t cut the mustard.
The Curmudgeon mistakenly thought Lula’s coattails would be long enough to enable Dilma to squeeze through the “fifty percent plus one” gate, particularly as he’s been spending the past three months figuratively joined to her hip, campaigning. So October 31st Brazilians will once again go to the polls, this time to choose a President.
Now for the truly worrisome bit—what will the effect of the runoff election mean to people planning to go away for the long “Finados” weekend? More stay at home? Or more travel anyway? The latter seems more likely.
There are polling stations in every tourist town in Brazil, if you’re there, you appear, hand in the proper form, and you’re exempt from fines or other penalties. Therefore, if you really don’t care about voting, you don’t have to stay home and vote. The Curmudgeon predicts there will be a lot more people who don’t care about voting in the runoff election, for several reasons.
First, notwithstanding their obligation to do so, almost 25 million registered voters didn’t cast a vote. Another 10 million chose the invalid “nulo” or “branco” voting option. That’s more than one quarter of the electorate who “just said no”.
Many of those who did vote did so because they had specific candidates they wished to support, for governor or for the state and federal legislatures, not necessarily for president. Those other offices are not up for grabs this round, so people who thought it most important to vote for Senator, but not much else, will think twice about showing up for the second round.
More important, over 19 million people voted for Marina Silva of PV, Brazil’s Green Party. Many did so because they fervently wanted her to be elected; many others voted for her in order to deny Dilma a first round victory—both Marina and Serra, during the week before the first round, openly courted the “anybody but Dilma” voters. But Marina herself will not be on the second ballot, and given her party’s history of being on the outs with both PT and PSDB, it’s going to be tough for her to urge her supporters to hit the hustings for either candidate.
If she’s smart, Marina will lay low and tell her supporters to vote for the one they prefer. That’s a “let’s you and him fight” approach, which enables her to stay above the fray. It’s a low-risk situation because Dilma doesn’t need her endorsement—she got almost 15 million more votes than Serra in the first round. Serra, on the other hand, must get at least 3 out of every 4 Marina voters, a highly improbable scenario no matter how much he tries to “green” up his pitch to voters.
The Curmudgeon therefore fearlessly makes two predictions for the second round: (1) there will be at least 5 million more people who don’t vote or whose vote is void; (2) Dilma’s margin over Serra will be close to 60/40. You read it here first.