In the coming October 3 presidential election, two of the three frontrunners are women. Dilma Rousseff (PT) has 35% of voter intentions in the polls and Marina Silva (PV) has around 7%. Former São Paulo governor José Serra (PSDB) is the man in this political triangle and he also has 35%.
However, there are another seven candidates for president, and all of them are men. Known as “nanicos” (midgets) they are from small political parties. So, what starts out looking very good from a female point of view soon turns sour.
Women may make up more than 50% of the electorate, and 66% of the top candidates in this election, but overall they are only 20% of the candidates. It is the prevailing situation in the 2010 Brazilian elections.
“Women have distinct difficulties at the party level in Brazil,” says Lucia Avelar of the University of Brasília who did a study on the subject.
“They may be a candidate, but when it comes to funding and exposure (Brazilian candidates get free time on radio and TV) they always get shortchanged.”
There has undoubtedly been an increase in women in politics. For example, female members of party board of directors in the three parties that have existed since the 1980s, have risen from four in the PDT to 62, and eight to 26 in the PT.
In 1981, the PMDB did not have any woman on its board, today it has 11. But as a percentage of total board members, the number of women is far less than 50%. In the PT it is just over 30%. In the PDT it is 16% and in the PMDB it is less than 10%.
In Congress, there are 45 female deputies (8.7% of the total) and 10 female senators (12.35%). Out of 27 governors, three are women.
Last week, as the deadline for registering candidates for the October general elections ended, the Federal Election Board (TSE) announced that a total of 21.393 registrations were granted, of which 4,495 were women.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal) reports that the situation is similar in the rest of the continent.
Some countries have quotas for women (varying from 20% in Paraguay to 45% in Ecuador). In Brazil, parties are supposed to reserve 30% of the places on tickets for women candidates.