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Ideas for a fairer world

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From the streets to a tragedy: A change in the Brazilian election panorama

By Thiago de Aragao.

The Brazilian elections are taking an unexpected path since the protests that happened in June 2013. On that occasion political analysts were asking themselves what could have been the drivers that motivated millions of Brazilians to take the streets protesting not only against the government, but against the political system as a whole.

On those protests, there was no clear agenda or defined objectives. The contradictions were easily identified. The protests were driven essentially by young people from the middle and higher socio-economic classes. What can be extracted from that atypical situation of June 2013, was the great desire for change. This desire change was not embodied by a single person or on a political party but the message was given: we want changes in the way of thinking, in the way of making politics and in the way of constructing Brazil.

The model that had been working since the beginning of the Lula government, focusing on consumption, easy access to credit and big construction projects financed by the state, today is being criticized by economists who have previously been allied to the ruling Workers Party (PT) and to former President Lula da Silva. The most interesting factor was that this change did not necessarily needed to be linked to someone new. Research numbers indicated that even though the desire for a change was strong during the second half of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, this change could have been met by President Dilma Rousseff herself. However, in a change from only a few months ago, when the consolidation of President Dilma as favourite for re-election as President seemed clear, today the scenery is unclear and the outlook the worst ever faced by PT since Lula became President of Brazil.

A poll on Tuesday 26th August by IBOPE gave Dilma 34%, Marina Silva 29% and Aécio Neves 19%. If we compare this to Datafolhas report from previous week that gave Dilma 36%, Marina 21% and Aecio 20%, we see Marina Silva from the centrist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) rising fast, the fall of Dilma and stagnation in the position of Aécios Neves. We can also see that finally previously undecided voters, many of whom were on the streets last year, are beginning to come out in support of Marina Silva.

Even with all the potential that the former candidate Eduardo Campos was carrying, he wasn't nationally recognized that way he could not be perceived as the representative of such change. Both Dilma and Aécio represent the Brazilian Government from the last 20 years. They may even talk about change, but the society doesn't see it that way. When Marina arose on the scene, even though the policy content of her platform is unknown by a large part of the population, the impact of her name, her face and posture of challenging the 'old politics' pleases important parts of the society, mainly those from the middle and upper classes and voters between 16 and 34 years old that are supporting her candidacy.

Marina's candidacy has merged not only the emotional aspect of the tragic death of Eduardo Campos but the idea of change itself, a new era for Brazil. Escaping from all those political stereotypes, Marina presents herself as a typical Brazilian from the northern region of the country, the poorest area of Brazil. However, Marina first reached the hearts and minds of the middle and upper classes in the most developed cities in Brazil. Could it be by the fact that she carried the content that they wanted to consume or could it be because she represents the abolition of old political models seen as saturated by the elites?

As opinion creators, those elites are daily trying to legitimate Marina, trying to transform that wave of change that she represents into something solid. While President Dilma and Senator Aécio Neves are trying to attribute the growth in her popularity to the emotive moment (following the death of Campos) and to the fact that she is something new, Marina had already demonstrated to have the power of a competitive candidate. In the 2010 Presidential election she received 20 million votes, as a candidate for the small Green Party, and showed up as a political force that came to stay. However in the following years she failed trying to create her own political party as she didn't manage to obtain the required 500,000 signatures. The explanation to that could be the anti status quo posture of her electorate. Why do you need a party?

As she seemed doomed to be a great second rank Brazilian politician, as candidate to be the vice president on Eduardo Campos' political ticket, destiny seems to have put her back on an unexpected track. The tragic change that ended the life of one of the most promising Brazilian politicians in many years was also the change in Marina's trajectory, that aims to be the change claimed by a society that doesn't know very well what it wants, but knows exactly what it doesn`t want.

We should not forget that Marina already had 27% of the vote intentions on a Datafolha research from April. It was one of the tested sceneries, but since Eduardo was the candidate and she was the Vice-Presidential candidate, just a few paid attention to those numbers. Of course there is an emotional wave that benefits her, but this emotional wave had begun during the 2013 protests and has just been accentuated by Eduardo Campos death. The third chapter of this emotional wave that could take over Brazil depends on whether Marina Silva can continue to build her strength until the end of the campaign.

September 2014