The 2018 Brazilian presidential election is approaching and there is no sign of a candidate who can express the will to change Brazilian society.
When major popular demonstrations blocked the country in June 2013 and invoked a loud change in Brazilian politics, it was expected that this movement could produce a new political leadership, the emergence of figures out from the outdated patterns of parties. But it did not happen, the movement went off without a cooptation phenomenon either: as a response to the demands of the movement, the Dilma government put in place some populist economic policy maneuvers, with the result that the Brazilian economy was destroyed.
The great popular mobilization of 2014, generated by the exasperation caused by the denunciations of the Lava Jato operation and by a slumping economy, instead, had the immediate objective of removing Dilma. Temer’s government-bridge, which was to ferry the country to 2018 elections and to undertake some fundamental reforms (labor and social security, mainly), was accepted as the only solution to avoid further deepening of the economic and institutional crisis.
With all the scandals that have emerged in recent years, one could expect an implosion of the party system, similar to that which – in the early 1990s in Italy – had wiped out the main political parties and their leaders and produced the emergence of new political subjects. What is happening in Brazil? Why is not mass mobilization repeated in order to send home a political class that has shown that it has as its sole objective to perpetuate its power and defend its own interests?
An important role at this time of at least apparent apathy is played by mass media, newspapers and TV mainly. At the forefront of Dilma’s impeachment campaign, the media helped to create a political and social environment that made the PT stay in power unsustainable. However, once the impeachment was voted, the main goal had been achieved: move PT away from the power centers, whose ineffective and fraudulent management had shed the Brazilian economy in the worst recession of its history.
By extraditing the PT, the liberal / conservative status quo could be restored, through the succession of vice-president Temer as the only constitutional solution and the creation of a new coalition (PMDB, PSDB, DEM, PSD and other center parties) that could lead the country to 2018 elections.
Hidden behind a hypocritical will to secure the country’s stability and overcome the economic crisis, big newspapers and TVs have not only supported Temer but have begun to undermine the credibility of investigations conducted by magistrates engaged in the Lava-Jato operation and in other major anti-corruption investigations. Even if it goes without saying, investigations are beginning to be overwhelmed by judicial power over political power; magistrates and judges are now accused of lamenting the political class, wanting to assume the role of legislators and guarantors of democracy.
And now, who has an interest in taking the head of a movement that aims to undermine a system of power that has always given the privileges of the so-called “strong powers”, from banks to large industries, to landfills? Certainly not the big press and the national TV, which are expressions of these strong powers.
In this context, it was obvious that support for Temer, which was proposed as an institutional figure, renounced a possible candidacy for the 2018 elections in the name of the country’s good.
Detail not entirely negligible, all the parties that support the Temer government are involved in the corruption scandals that have devastated Brazil in recent years; several Temer government ministers had to resign because they were being investigated; Temer and Renan’s PMDB is the party that has made clientelism and systematic corruption its own way of doing politics, without any restraint and with no respect for voters; the PSDB is not so much better than the PMDB, with numerous leaders involved in corruption scandals.
For Brazil, the worst thing to do is come to the elections of October 2018 with the current party deployment, with candidates who are the expression of the same way of politics.
An index of the drama (or absurdity) of the situation comes from opinion polls that see Lula as a favorite, if he presents as a candidate. To take away Lula of scene was not enough a condemnation to 9 years and a half at first degree; the Mensalao scandal, which has put into the jail the highest PT leaders, has not been sufficient, the Lava-Jato scandal, which proved the systematic looting of Petrobras and other state companies, was not enough,. There is still a significant number of Brazilians who believe in this serial liar, who has confidence in a man and a party who has put Brazil on the knees.
Immediately behind Lula in the polls is Jair Bolsonaro, PSC politician and known to defend the legitimacy of military dictatorship and to consider torture legitimate. An impassionable and disgusting figure, which however brings together the consensus of the most exasperated voters towards the coupled Lula-Dilma and more generally towards politics.
Joao Doria (PSDB), mayor of Sao Paulo, is in theory out of the old politics, being a businessman and a man of communication, a bit at Trump. However, he is tied to the PSDB and at the moment in the case of his political goddess Geraldo Alckmin, in the front row as a candidate for the presidential election. Just affiliation with a traditional party such as the PSDB takes away at least partially the possibility of impersonating the role of a candidate for discontinuity, since – if elected – it would have to compromise with the allied parties (see PMDB ) and with the same PSDB entourage.
The PMDB does not appear to be in a position to propose its own candidate; not being a party with an ideology, neither right nor left, will support the strongest candidate in exchange for a quota of assignments.
The options that come from the judicial system are Carmen Lucia, current chairman of the STF (Federal Supreme Court) and Joaquim Barbosa, former STF minister and protagonist of the “mensalao” process. The first embodies all the “anti-political” attributes well-seen by the electorate, and at the same time, as an institutional figure, can guarantee the cost-effective stability of the transition. Barbosa is a most controversial figure as it is identified as an acrimine enemy of the PT and hence with a less “super partes” image than Carmen Lucia.
Just over a year before the elections, the “political market” has failed to produce one or more candidates for discontinuity, which Brazil needs so much to overcome the plight of this political, economic and institutional crisis.
If France did not need a Lava-Jato to modernize its political representation and sweep away the dualism of Gaullism / Socialism that no longer represented the needs of its society, Brazil – with so many more “stimuli” – can not do that?
In the twelve months that separate from the election, many things can happen, including the emergence of an outsider’s candidacy at Macron, a candidate who can obtain the consent of the middle class dropped into the square in March 2016 and at the same time reassure the “orphans of Lula “, the poorest Brazil in the metropolitan suburbs and in the North / Northeast.
The great spontaneous movement of 2013 (more than 2016 one, more media-driven) shows that it is possible to start a process of change that starts from the streets, involving the common people without the need of Rede Globo and the big newspapers placet. A peaceful and noisy revolution, but this time able to express a credible leadership and recognize itself on a country project, even before than on an economic program.
Although the rules of the electoral campaign favor existing parties, in these 12 months a Brazilian Macron may still arise.
Citing a piece of Juan Arias’s article for El Pais on 24/4/2017:
“We do not know if there is a Brazilian Macron, a modern and anti-system intellectual and strong intellectual, and at the same time an explorer of a new system that connects with the sensitivity of a globalized society. A society looking for something still difficult to identify, but that feels that it can not continue to be anchored to the old schemes of a policy – both right and left – which, as Macron says, represents only “death stars.”