A UBC expert on Brazil’s upcoming presidential election
On October 5, Brazilians head to the polls to vote in a general election with many posts up for grabs, including president.
In August, the presidential race was upended when Eduardo Campos, the Brazilian Socialist Party candidate, was killed in a plane crash and replaced by running mate Marina Silva.
Déborah Barros Leal Farias, a native Brazilian and PhD candidate in UBC’s Department of Political Science, discusses the twists and turns of the campaign as voting day nears.
How has the death of Eduardo Campos impacted Brazil’s political climate leading up to the general election?
It has impacted the climate significantly. Campos passed away suddenly and became a bit of a martyr. Before he died, he was hovering around 10 per cent in the polls and was in third place. He was trying to position himself as a third way, in contrast with incumbent president Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which have been the two main political parties in Brazil since the 1990s.
What has made a difference is Campos’ vice presidential candidate, Marina Silva, who has now taken his place on the ballot. She has been known in Brazil for some time–she’s a former environment minister and was a candidate in the last presidential election. She ended up in third place, but she garnered 20 million votes. Usually vice presidents are the people you don’t really pay attention to, but in Silva’s case, she was better known nationally than Campos was.
Dilma and Silva are competing in pretty much every segment of the polls. I think it’s very likely that the election is going to be a runoff between the two of them. But there are still a couple of weeks to go, and much can happen.
What are Silva’s strengths and weaknesses?
For a lot of people, her major strength is simply that she’s not Dilma. She has the advantage that she’s never had any sort of scandal attached to her. I think she projects trust and renewal for many voters.
But she is very religious – she’s evangelical, and more conservative. That’s a problem, especially for urban, educated and young voters. Socially, Brazil is more open and less conservative, I’d say, than other Latin American countries.
Right now, the Workers’ Party is really about demonizing Silva – pitting her as an extremist and socially conservative. But you can’t go too far in that direction, because there are also evangelicals and social conservatives who are going to vote for Dilma.
What are some of key election issues?
Political and government corruption. Brazil’s economy is also in bad shape; it really has gone downhill in the past four years. The last report from the Ministry of Finance is that Brazil is in a technical recession. Another issue is the safety and security of citizens.
What are the implications of the Brazilian election for Canada?
If Dilma gets re-elected, I think Brazil’s relationship with Canada is likely to remain lukewarm. When Canada looks south, it stops at Mexico or a little bit further. When Brazil looks north it kind of stops at the U.S.
However, the formal relationship between the countries has been strengthened by a Brazilian project called Science Without Borders, which has enabled thousands of Brazilian students to come to Canada, and I think a good number of those have come to UBC.
The fact that Silva is a strong advocate for the environment may change Brazil’s stance towards governments that are more pro-fossil fuels. If she’s elected, you may see more of a tension in that regard.