For the fourth time running, the Partido de los Trabajadores (PT: Workers’ Party) has won the presidential elections in Brazil, elections which, also for the fourth time, were in effect a plebiscite between candidates of the PT and the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party, the party of Fernando Henrique Cardoso). This time the campaign had its ups and downs, especially from mid-August to the second round, in late October, and ended with the decision of Brazilians to continue on the path begun in 2003 with the first Lulu government.
In the face-off between the neo-liberal model of the opposition and the exit route from neo-liberalism traced by the government, for the fourth time Brazilians have reaffirmed the path begun by Lula. There will be at least 16 years of PT governments, the longest continuous period for one party in government, during the democratic period in Brazil.
Lula said that it was better to win in the second round, since the counter-position of the two projects, their alternatives and the differences between them would stand out more clearly. And so it was! The opposing camps were: on the part of the opposition candidate, that of the centrality of the market, free trade, the reduction of the role of the State, lower wages and higher unemployment, the contraction of public banks, and international alliances that privileged the USA, among others.
Against this, was the orientation of continuing social policies, as the central focus of the government, with dynamic action of the State, strengthening alliances in the region and with the greater South on a world level, guarantees for fuller employment and wage increases above inflation levels.
The doubt was whether Lula’s Brazil would go forward or whether the important experience of PT governments would end in 2014. There were ups and downs during the campaign, but the biggest dispute was that of the basic agenda: what were the themes that were most important for Brazilians.
The opposition played its cards hardest at two levels, taking advantage of its media monopoly: on the one hand, proclaiming a supposed economic crisis leading to uncontrollable inflation, unemployment and economic stagnation. A survey conducted by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo has revealed that one of the reasons for increased support for Dilma was the failure of this economic terrorism. The great majority of Brazilians — including many opposition voters — are optimistic with respect to the Brazilian economy. They are convinced that the situation will improve next year and that prices will remain under control and wages will increase.
The other central theme was the accusations of corruption, which in the final period of the campaign were concentrated on the state oil company Petrobras. People got tired of this campaign of accusations – so many of them without any proof — and the result was that this issue lost its effectiveness.
The Dilma Rousseff campaign, taking advantage of TV coverage and the intensification of political mobilization led by her alongside Lula throughout the country, together with very active participation of PT militants and all of the left, was able to convince the majority that the fundamental achievements of the PT governments would be at risk in the event of an opposition victory. At the same time, the contrast of the personal and political background of the two candidates served to accentuate the qualities of Dilma, in contrast with the fragility of those of Aécio Neves.
Overall, as from the Sunday before the second round, a situation arose in which the level of rejection of Aécio was greater than that against Dilma, anticipating a shift that was consolidated over the last week and resulted in Sunday’s victory. The left wing militancy carried the streets in the whole country, as the second round involved a clear opposition between left and right, securing the shift and the victory for Dilma.
(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)
– Emir Sader, Brazilian sociologist and political scientist, is coordinator of the Laboratory of Public Policy of the Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).