After the municipal elections all the political parties commemorated victory, while the press demonstrated that, in reality, they were all defeated. Perhaps everyone is right.
One thing, however, is clear: the voters preferred the candidates from parties that we can call “non-traditional” to avoid using the word “left,” a vague concept for the present political situation.
The result of the São Paulo mayoral election is an example of this. After decades of elections disputed—and won—by conservative parties that elected mayors ranging from Jânio Quadros to Paulo Maluf, the run-off election was between the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and the Workers Party (PT).
Their candidates José Serra and Marta Suplicy have nothing to do with Brazil’s authoritarian, corrupt, demagogic past. Both of them come from the resistance, from the left. Voters in São Paulo went to the polls to show their desire for social change in Brazil.
Throughout the country the winning candidates were from alternative-bloc parties, as opposed to the traditional, political-bosses elites. The PT spread out and substantially increased the number of cities and voters that it will be governing, electing candidates in cities that until a short time ago were accustomed to continuity and resistant, even contrary, to progressive positions. The rest of the progressive-bloc parties grew. The Brazilian voter revealed a healthy tendency towards renovation.
The same cannot be said about some of the political leadership. As was seen in São Paulo and the other cities, the progressive parties won, although their candidates’ speeches were out of sync with the left’s past and—even worse—with new proposals, with new dreams.
They did not permit the people to imagine a better future. In 2004, the voters changed more than the candidates did.
Because of this, the PT won the election but lost its magic. We allowed the feeling to slip away that we represent change, the new, the alternative. We won because the other parties represent hope even less than the PT does.
Because of its past and its widespread ability to elect candidates plus President Lula’s charismatic leadership, the PT is the party most prepared to represent this new Brazil.
It therefore needs to conserve the maturity acquired in its administration of the economy and bring together a social project leading to a more equitable Brazil.
The PT of economic stability also needs to be the PT of projects of social inclusion, income distribution, environmental protection, regional inequalities reduction, struggle against urban violence, consolidation of the democracy and of transparency, abolition of corruption, revolution in education and healthcare. It needs to represent the new left for which the voter wants to cast a ballot.
If it does this, the 2006 elections can reflect the confidence in the economic growth already achieved while recovering the capacity to grab the country’s attention. If it does not do this, Lula will continue as the great leader that he is; the party, however, will have difficulties in differentiating itself.
This may permit the election of a candidate from another party. It may, moreover, also permit a return to the past, with politicians from the traditional bloc launching a discourse of renovation and thus opening the door for a demagogic candidate to present impossible dreams that might touch today’s disenchanted voter.
There still is time for the PT to reformulate itself—the other parties will also attempt this—to translate into action the voters’ call for a step forward without prejudicing what has been already achieved.
The PT can do it but so can the other parties. Brazil cannot permit the Brazilian leadership to lag behind, ignoring the voters’ message, not engaging in discussion, not making proposals, frustrating the voters’ expectation of a turn to the left.
Cristovam Buarque has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04). You can visit his homepage – www.cristovam.com.br – and write to him at email@example.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome - LinJerome@cs.com.