Brazilians are going to the polls for the runoff election
November 15. But for the most part they have already given their verdict.
They are happy with the present administrators and don’t want any abrupt
In at least five of the main state capitals, the message of the voters
in the October election, which renewed every city hall and city council
across Brazil, was unequivocal: People want administrative continuity,
independent from party affiliation or ideology. This desire for continuity
was even more pronounced in the 10 biggest cities of the country. In 60
percent of these cities, candidates supported by the current mayor (reelection
is not allowed) have either already been elected mayor or will be competing
in the runoff election on November 15.
The victors of the first round were able to appeal to the electorate’s
local interests. Candidates like former Planning Minister José Serra,
who wanted to discuss national themes including minimum wage and agrarian
reform, didn’t have a chance. The effort of those who manichaeistically
limited the choices between left and right were more disastrous still.
For example, in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Raul Pont
won the mayor’s seat in the first round of the elections, eliminating the
need for a runoff and guaranteeing a third mandate for the party in power,
the leftist PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores — Workers’ Party). Porto Alegre’s
mayor, Tarso Genro, is a rising star in his party and is being identified
by some as an alternative to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for the 1998
presidential elections. Lula has been the PT’s presidential candidate for
the last two elections.
In Curitiba, capital of Paraná, the moderate PDT (Partido Democrático
Trabalhista — Labor Democratic Party) took city hall for the third time
in a row. The victory of Cássio Taniguchi, in this case, was also
a tribute to Jayme Lerner, the legendary governor of Paraná who
was previously Curitiba’s mayor.
Even more dramatic were the victories of the candidates in São
Paulo(capital of São Paulo) and Rio (capital of Rio de Janeiro),
the country’s two most populated cities, though there will still be a runoff.
Celso Pitta, from the right wing PPB (Partido Progressista Brasileiro —
Brazilian Progressive Party), was close to taking the prize the first time
around, obtaining 48 percent of the votes against 22 percent of the closest
candidate, former mayor of São Paulo, Luíza Erundina de Sousa
(PT). In Rio, PFL’s (Partido da Frente Liberal — Liberal Front Party)
candidate, Luiz Carlos Conde, obtained 35 percent of the votes while the
second place finisher, Sérgio de Oliveira Cabral from the PSDB (Partido
da Social Democracia Brasileira — Brazilian Social Democracy Party), received
In both cases, the would-be mayor wouldn’t have a prayer without the
full commitment of their political godfathers, the incumbent mayor. Both
were obscure city hall aides handpicked by the mayor they served. Pitta
worked for Paulo Salim Maluf, and Conde for César Maia. Curiously,
Maluf and Maia are controversial politicians finishing their mandates with
record popularity indexes, due less to their charisma or congeniality than
to their ability to do a lot of made-for-effect work — like big roads,
hospitals, schools and residential buildings — and then take credit for
it. Maluf increased the marketing for city hall by 400 percent, the same
400 percent increase for new tunnels around town.
Maluf, who is continually trying to become Brazil’s President, is finishing
his mandate with a 67 percent approval index. Compare this to his predecessor
and the person who will be running against Pitta in the runoff, Luíza
Erundina. Her popularity at this time during her mandate was only 29 percent.
São Paulo’s mayor, who is 65 years old and has run in eight previous
elections, losing five, has become a symbol of these elections and a major
threat to Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Cardoso wants to be reelected as president
in 1998 but needs to reform the constitution to pull this one out. Maluf,
the leader of the PPB, the third largest party in Congress, is against
such a change because it could make his own run for the Palácio
do Planalto much harder.
Worried about this likely opposition, President Fernando Henrique from
the PSDB, has authorized his close aides to back Pitta in the runoff. Ironically,
Maluf had offered to back the President’s candidate for a small exchange
of favors, an offer that was politely rejected. The São Paulo campaign
was a disaster for the President and his party. PSDB’s candidate, senator
José Serra, had left his post as Planning Minister to run for the
mayor’s seat, but President Cardoso’s backing was never more than half-hearted.
Then his Communications Minister, Sérgio Motta, known as Serjão
(big Sérgio), entered the fray with a comment that offended almost
everybody, crediting Erundina’s behavior to her menopause crisis.
Alagoas state senator Teotônio Vilela Filho, PSDB’s national President,
wasn’t thrilled with Cardoso’s willingness to please Maluf and concluded
there was no need to get close to the Paulista mayor to pass the
reelection constitutional amendment in Congress. “Maluf has always
been against the reelection,” he pondered. “His party is always
divided on this question. He has an arrogant way of dealing with these
matters, and he is someone who creates division even among his fellow party
PPB’s national president, Espiridião Amin, however, says there
is nothing more logical than Cardoso backing Pitta: “Pitta is a candidate
from the PPB and has a candidate of the PFL as a running mate. But the
PT is opposition.” Ideologically, the President, who has a Marxist
past, and his party are much closer to the PT, a party that was formed
with much help from Fernando Cardoso.
In Rio, the President’s party must also walk a very fine line. The runoff
there will have PFL’s Luiz Paulo Conde facing PSDB’s Sérgio Cabral.
Nationwide, the PSDB hasn’t been much luckier. Its candidates will get
a second chance in the runoff for the two important capitals of Rio and
Belo Horizonte (state of Minas Gerais), but a victory in either city is
far from certain.
Among the curiosities in these elections was the victory in Oaipoque
of João Neves (PSB — Partido Socialista Brasileiro — Brazilian
Socialist Party) — the first Brazilian Indian to become a mayor. The Galibi
Indian got 1,713 votes, 47.6 percent of the total. Oiapoque is in the far
North of Brazil, and of its 4,231 voters, 1,311 are Indians. Neves, 34,
is married and has three children. He left the reservation where he was
born at age 10 to live with a white teacher.
In Porto Alegre, Nega Diaba (Blackie Devil), 58, won a seat as a council
member despite all the religious opposition to her. Nega, whose real name
is Teresa dos Santos, announced at the start of her campaign that she had
been a drug addict and trafficker and a prostitute for 36 years. Elected
by PTB (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro — Brazilian Labor Party) she promises
to be the voice for those who suffer.
Of the 12 candidates for city council who came out of the closet and
announced they were gay, only one won. This was Kátia Tapeti, a
transvestite, who was the victorious candidate in Colonia do Piauí
in Piauí state. She should become the president of the council and
is already thinking about a run for the office of mayor in the year 2000.
Some of the just-elected mayors, at least nine of them, will not have
a city hall in which to be inaugurated. Maurício Bittencourt (PPB),
for example, who was elected in Macuco in the state of Rio, has already
announced that his inauguration will be at the central square’s bandstand.
Macuco is just one of the municipalities that were created in the last
two years and have no infrastructure.
Former President José Sarney, who is contemplating another run
for the presidency, has suffered a series of defeats, including in the
17 cities in Amapá where he was elected for the Senate in 1990.
He even lost in Cidade Sarney, a town named after him, which is now going
to hold a plebiscite to change its name.
Thanks to new legislation that made obligatory at least a 20 percent
presence of women among the candidates for city council in all parties,
70,000 women ran for electoral posts in October. Twenty of them were trying
for mayorships in 13 capitals. Four of them still have a chance to win.
In Natal and Maceió, two women will be facing each other on November
15. In Florianópolis, Ângela Amin (PPB) won more votes than
her opponent in the first round, and in São Paulo, Luíza
Erundina won second place, taking José Serra, Fernando Henrique’s
candidate, out of the race. However, to defeat Celso Pitta in the runoff
and return to her seat in the mayor’s office, she will need something like
Voting by computer
It’s believed that part of the PT’s success in these elections was due
to the introduction of the voting computer, which has drastically cut the
possibilities of fraud. The new machines were used for the first time in
Brazil, and only the 57 cities with more than 200,000 voters were able
to utilize it. This represented almost one-third of the electorate. The
system also seems to have helped in reducing the blank votes from 10.75
percent in 1992 to 1.81 percent this year, while keeping the void vote
around 9.5 percent.
In sum, the TSE (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral — Superior Electoral Tribunal)
is so happy with the results that it has already announced that by the
year 2000 the whole country will be using computers to cast their ballots.
In 1998, when Brazil will have presidential elections, the computer vote
will be extended to the 27 Brazilian capitals and 893 other municipalities
with more than 20,000 residents. By then, the voters should have a magnetic
card in lieu of their present paper voting ID.
According to the TSE, only 1.5 percent of all electronic voting machines
experienced mechanical failure, although in 5 percent of the cases, the
new gadgets were abandoned for the old ballot boxes. Marco Aurélio
de Mello, TSE’s president, explained that most of the problems were due
to human error and blamed unprepared precinct personnel and careless voters
for the snarls. The most frequent problem was caused by bad connections
between the voting machine and the precinct’s manager keyboard.
About 85 percent of the elected mayors (4,700 of them) belong to six
major parties. According to political scientist Bolívar Lamounier
in an interview with weekly newsmagazine Veja, “This shows
that they are the only viable parties at a national level.”
PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira — Brazilian Social Democracy
Party): Their members are frequently called tucanos (toucans). Fernando
Henrique Cardoso’s party didn’t change its political strength in the country.
Their candidates won as mayors of Cuaibá and Vitória, two
state capitals, and they have a chance to win the runoff election in another
five: Rio, Belo Horizonte, Manaus, Goiânia and Terezina. The loss
in São Paulo, however, was a bit humiliating.
PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro — Brazilian
Democratic Movement Party): Still the biggest party, but somewhat weakened
after the elections. Their candidates won as mayors of two capitals, Fortaleza
and Rio Branco. In the runoff they will be vying for smaller cities: Teresina,
Aracaju, Goiânia, Campo Grande, João Pessoa. In all, they
won in nearly 1,500 city halls.
PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores — Worker’s Party): They lost important
cities where they were the dominant force for years — such as Diadema
in Greater São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais
— but they were able to widen their influence across the nation. Besides
taking Porto Alegre’s mayorship for a third time, they are also in the
runoff in São Paulo, Belém, Florianópolis, Natal,
Maceió, and Campo Grande. The PT celebrated the fact that they won
3.8 million votes in the state capitals, more than any other party.
PFL — Partido da Frente Liberal (Liberal Front Party): The right wing
side of the coalition that guaranteed Fernando Henrique Cardoso election
to the presidency had an astonishing performance. They won more capitals
than any other party in the first round, and they had the fifth largest
number of votes in the capitals of states even though they were running
in only nine of these capitals, merely half the number of cities in which
the PT and the PSDB had candidates. They are poised to win Rio’s city hall
in the runoff, after already winning in Salvador, Recife and Macapá.
PPB (Partido Progressista Brasileiro — Brazilian Progressive Party):
PPB became synonymous with Paulo Salim Maluf, São Paulo’s mayor.
The party, barring a catastrophe, is guaranteed São Paulo’s city
hall, despite the fact that it will have to dispute it in a runoff election.
No small feat since São Paulo is by far the biggest source of votes
in the country, with close to seven million voters. The PPB conquered only
one capital city hall: Palmas in Tocantins. But it will also be vying for
Florianópolis, São Luiz, and Manaus in the runoff. The party
got 3.2 million votes nationwide, but 2.5 million came from São
PDT — Partido Democrático Trabalhista (Worker’s Democratic Party):
The PDT won the mayor’s race in two capitals: Curitiba and Porto Velho.
It also has a chance of taking Belém, João Pessoa, and São
Luiz. Leonel Brizola’s (Rio’s former governor) party, however, lost in
two of their traditional strongholds: Rio and Porto Alegre — a rude blow
to PDTs leader. All in all, the party was still able to elect mayors in
nearly 500 cities.
Capital by capital
Mayors elected and in the runoff
Aracaju (Sergipe) — Runoff: João Augusto Gama da Silva (PMDB)
x Ismael Silva Santos (PT)
Belém (Pará) — Runoff: Edmilson Brito Rodrigues (PT)
x Ramiro Jayme Bentes (PDT)
Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais) — Runoff: Célio de Castro (PSB)
x Amílcar Martins (PSDB)
Boa Vista (Roraima) — New mayor: Ottomar de Souza Pinto (PTB)
Campo Grande (Mato Grosso do Sul) — Runoff: José Orcírio
Miranda (PT) x André Puccinelli (PMDB)
Cuiabá (Mato Grosso) — New mayor: Roberto França Auad
Curitiba (Paraná) — New mayor: Cássio Taniguchi (PDT)
Florianópolis (Santa Catarina) — Runoff: Angela Regina Heinzen
Amin (PPB) x Afrânio Tadeu Boppré (PT)
Fortaleza (Ceará) — New mayor: Juraci Vieira de Magalhães
Goiânia (Goiás) — Runoff: Nion Albernaz (PSDB) x Luiz
José Bittencourt (PMDB)
João Pessoa (Paraíba) — Runoff: Cícero de Lucena
Filho (PMDB) x Antônia Lúcia Navarro (PDT)
Macapá (Amapá) — New mayor: Anníbal Barcellos
Maceió (Alagoas) — Runoff: Kátia Born Ribeiro (PSB) x
Heloísa Helena Lima (PT)
Manaus (Amazonas) — Runoff: Alfredo Pereira do Nascimento (PPB) x Serafim
Fernandes Correia (PSDB)
Natal (Rio Grande do Norte) — Runoff: Vilma Maria de Faria (PSDB) x
Maria de Fátima Bezerra (PT)
Palmas (Tocantins) — New mayor: Manoel Odir Rocha (PPB)
Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul) — New mayor: Raul Jorge Anglada Pont
Porto Velho (Rondônia) — New mayor: Francisco José Chiquili
Recife (Pernambuco) — New mayor: Roberto Magalhães Melo (PFL)
Rio Branco (Acre) — New mayor: Mauri Sérgio Moura
Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro) — Runoff: Luiz Paulo Fernandez Conde
(PFL) x Sérgio de Oliveira Cabral (PSDB)
Salvador (Bahia) — New mayor: Antônio José Imbassahy (PFL)
São Luís (Maranhão) — Runoff: Jackson Képler
Lago (PDT) x João Castelo Ribeiro (PPB)
São Paulo (São Paulo) — Runoff: Celso Roberto Pitta (PPB)
x Luiza Erundina de Sousa (PT)
Teresina (Piauí) — Firmino da Silveira Soares (PSDB) x Alberto
Tavares Silva (PSDB)
Vitória (Espírito Santo) — New mayor: Luiz Paulo Velloso
PC do B — Partido Comunista do Brasil (Brazilian Communist Party)
PDT — Partido Democrático Trabalhista (Worker’s Democratic Party)
PFL — Partido da Frente Liberal (Liberal Front Party)
PL — Partido Liberal (Liberal Party)
PMDB — Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (Brazilian
Democratic Movement Party)
PMN — Partido da Mobilização Nacional (National Mobilization’s
PP — Partido Progressista (Progressive Party)
PPB (Partido Progressista Brasileiro — Brazilian Progressive Party)
PPR — Partido Progressista Reformador (Reformer Progressive Party)
PPS — Partido Popular Socialista (Popular Socialist Party)
PRN — Partido da Reconstrução Nacional (National Reconstruction’s
PRP — Partido Republicano Progressista (Progressive Republican Party).
PSB — Partido Socialista Brasileiro (Brazilian Socialist Party)
PSC — Partido Social Cristão (Social Christian Party)
PSD — Partido Social Democrático (Social Democratic Party)
PSDB — Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy
PT — Partido dos Trabalhadores (Worker’s Party)
PTB — Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (Brazilian Labor Party)
PV — Partido Verde (Green Party)
Brazilian electorate: 101,284,121 (men: 50.1 percent — women: 49.5
Number of candidates for mayor and city council: 1,015,187
Voters under 18: 2,135,046
Municipalities holding elections: 5,507
Total ballot boxes: 77,069
Cities voting by computer: 57
Voters using voting by computer: 32,478,153
City with most voters: São Paulo (6,765,407)
City with fewest voters: Lavandeira, state of Tocantins (473)
Not Stockholm Here
excerpt from Rio’s daily Jornal do Brasil
Naïve, the voter woke up all excited Thursday. It looked like he
was in the First World. The vote was going to be electronic. He made sure
he had the right number for his candidate for city council because he didn’t
want to make a fool of himself when pushing the button and went ahead.
Before leaving home, he read the paper and inflated his chest. Besides
the electronic ballot box, the results would be available the same day
through the Internet. He then applied at the TSE (Superior Electoral Tribunal)
to receive every half hour, starting at 6 p.m., an E-mail with the vote-counting
results. Let’s be honest, I don’t even think Stockholm is that First World.
Then the naïve voter left home — it could be a sunny day but Stockholm
must also be cloudy like that — bumping into that sea of people who were
all happy because they were also going to vote electronically. The precinct,
in a little school that didn’t seem at all from the First World, was empty.
And then he had his first disappointment. The voting machine was broken.
Broken?! A voter, drunk of civic fervor, pushed the number of his candidate
with such brute force that the computer packed up, somebody explained.
What are we supposed to do now? Just fill out the ballot as in old times.
Frustrated, the naïve voter drops his vote at the ballot box, goes
back home and decides to kill time watching TV until 6 p.m., when the Internet
would start releasing the TSE’s results. The newscasts were scary. In São
Paulo the counting was slow due to the rain that delayed the arrival of
the diskettes at the TRE (Regional Electoral Tribunal). In Rio, there were
problems with the telephone transmission of the results. That’s when the
TRE gave up the on-line scheme and started to use some Kombis (old Volkswagen
minivans). Vote counting with a Kombi? Do they still have Kombis in Stockholm?
That was too much.
Six p.m., the voter flies to his computer so he can smell a little of
the First World. Nothing. Six-thirty, seven, seven-thirty, eight. No results.
Would he have to be satisfied with the exit polls? Eight-thirty, nine,
nine-thirty . . . To make a long story short, the first results on the
Internet came at 2:30 in the morning. And the second bulletin went on line
only at 11:30 a.m.. Didn’t they say that it was going to be every 30 minutes?
Unless the TSE’s 30 minutes takes nine hours. The naïve voter abandoned
the computer and went back to the Third World, just in time to discover
through the papers that the results in Rio, promised for Thursday at midnight,
would be released Friday night. So he went to rest from his electoral hangover,
sure that he was living farther and farther from Stockholm.
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