Two years after right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s election stepped up the political playing field, Brazil will vote on Sunday in municipal polls that analysts say will likely consolidate its shift to the right.
Bolsonaro’s victory ushered in a new policy that was summed up in his nickname “Tropical Trump” and put the finishing touches on 13 years of left-wing rule in Brazil that ended with President Dilma Rousseff’s accusation in 2016.
Now, in the first election since Bolsonaro swept to power, the Latin American giant will elect its 5,568 mayors and city council, with analysts looking to see where the various political camps stand in the midst of the next 2022 presidential election.
Bolsonaro enters Sunday’s vote in the first round weakened by his political idol Donald Trump’s loss in the United States and his controversial handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more people in Brazil than any other country than the United States.
But his approval numbers are strong – more than 40 percent recently – and he still excels at whipping his hard bass into a frenzy with his social media.
In recent days, he has added a series of live broadcasts on Facebook to support his favorite candidates – including his son Carlos, a city councilor in Rio de Janeiro – and urges Brazilians to stop the country from “turning red”.
However, the president’s election does not look like winning Brazil’s largest cities.
In Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro acolyte Celso Russomanno is leading center-right mayor Bruno Covas, who is seeking re-election.
And in Rio de Janeiro follows Mayor Marcelo Crivella, an evangelical pastor and Bolsonaro ally, ex-mayor Eduardo Paes.
But analysts say the country is heading for a new wave of conservative victories, raising a number of evangelical candidates and ex-police officers and soldiers who have made religion and security – signature Bolsonaro issues – central to their campaigns.
“2020 will deepen what we saw in 2018: the right-wing party’s progress,” said political scientist Oswaldo Amaral of the University of Campinas.
But it will be difficult to assess the extent to which it is a win for Bolsonaro, who left his party, the Social Liberals (PSL), last year and has not yet followed up on plans to start his own party.
“Bolsonaro is the first president since the return to democracy (in the 1980s) to enter municipal elections without a party,” said political scientist Felipe Nunes of the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
“So it will be harder to judge it as a victory or defeat,” he told AFP.
Covid and clowns
Turnout is expected to be low, largely due to fears of coronavirus among the country’s 148 million voters.
In a survey by the Democracy Institute, 27 percent of Brazilians said they feared voting because of Covid-19, and 53 percent had “little interest” in the election.
In an attempt to create buzz and overcome apathy, many candidates have resorted to colorful nicknames and campaign gimmicks.
There will be 18 Obamas, three Trumps and 84 Bolsonaros on the ballot, according to a count in Brazilian media – not to mention 99 Tiriricas, who borrow the name of a clown elected to Congress in 2010 on the slogan “It can” does not get worse . “
He has since been re-elected twice.
The Brazilian left remains weakened and divided after the spectacular rollout of the Labor Party (PT) with Rousseff’s accusation and imprisonment of his predecessor, party founder Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on corruption charges.
The party fought in the last local elections in 2016, shortly after Rousseff’s accusation.
Surveys suggest that left-wing candidates may make the second round on November 29 in some major cities.
It includes the largest, Sao Paulo, where left-wing guide Guilherme Boulos ranks second ahead of Russomanno, the presidential candidate.
But at the national level, “things went very badly for the left in 2016 and 2018, and they will remain bad,” said George Avelino, a professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.