Foto: Jefferson Rudy/Agência Senado

In just over a month’s time, Brazilians are going to choose their next President, Senators and Federal and State Legislators. However, as options for a political renewal are low, blank and null votes continue to grow.

In the first national election after the climax of one of the biggest anti-corruption operations the country has ever gone through so far, the balance of four years seems to be negative for Brazilians: trauma is the most fitting description.

Dilma Rousseff took office in 2015, was impeached in 2016 and Michel Temer is ruling until the end of 2018, with elections happening in October. During this period? No more than an economic recession and about a thousand search and seizure warrants, temporary arrests, preventive detention and coercive conduct for politicians and businessmen involved in a money laundering scheme that moved billions of reais in bribes.

The result of all this is a nation traumatized by the inversion of values in the political process, victims of a democratic system that failed. As a consequence, there is the rise of polarization, a crisis of representation and the increase in blank and null votes that leads to an even worse problem: the lack of hope not only in politicians but more dangerously in politics itself.

However, in some ways, the frustration of the people is legitimized by the profile of the candidates that appear as an option. They all preach renewal, although the majority represent no more than the old political class whose utmost interest has been the maintenance of its privileges. Below is a briefing of the main presidential candidates in the pools calculated by the Datafolha in July 2018.  

An old political class with a speech of renewal

Lula: leading the run with 30% of vote intentions, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ruled the country for eight years, climbing up from being a poor metallurgist and union leader to registering a two million dollars patrimony in 2018. Lula has been jailed since April after being sentenced to nine years and six months in prison by corruption and money-laundering charges. A legal decision concerning his candidacy is pending, as the “Clean Record Act” makes ineligible a person convicted by a decision of a collective body for eight years, even if possible appeals remain. Lula’s candidacy will likely be contested, and his vice will take over, Fernando Haddad.

Jair Bolsonaro: leading with 19% of vote intentions in a scenario without Lula, Bolsonaro claims to be a conservative in traditions and a liberal in economics. The former military officer who has been a politician for about thirty years defends positions in favor of the liberation of firearm possession, the militarization of elementary and high school, the voluntary chemical castration for rapists, the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility etc; while defending positions against gay marriage, gender ideology, abortion and drugs legalization etc.

Marina Silva: with 15% of vote intentions in a scenario without Lula, Marina defines herself as an evangelical, married, mother of four children and a black woman. She has been running for the presidency since 2010 with no victory so far, defending a pro-environment position. Marina has been in politics for about thirty years; she was affiliated with the “Workers Party”, the same as Lula’s, and served as his Environment Minister from 2003 to 2008, later breaking up with the party and creating her own.

Ciro Gomes: with 10% of vote intentions in a scenario without Lula, a lawyer who has been in politics for about 35 years. Ciro Gomes could be considered the classical Keynesian type, being in favor of strong State institutions, taxes and regulations. Among his speeches, he has promised to withdraw from the “Credit Bureau” 63 millions of indebted Brazilians, although not really specifying the ways to do so.

Geraldo Alckmin: with 7% of vote intentions in a scenario without Lula, a doctor who has been in politics for about 45 years, Alckmin is part of one of the main parties with the largest number of Congressmen under suspicion, apart from building alliances with the so-called “Center Parties”,  a collection of parties who gather forces beyond ideology in order to remain in power by giving political strength to each other.

As for the quantities of blank and null votes, those represent together 28% while 5% of people do not know who to vote for. That scary number is a reflection of the dissatisfaction of the Brazilian people as for those representing them – or who was supposed to do so at least. The crisis of representation shows itself in this situation: when the number of those voting blank or null surpasses the vote intentions for the real candidates.

However, as cited in the previous article “The Power Of Politics To Discourage Society – And Why It Shouldn’t”, “Giving up on politics would be like giving the corrupts a carte blanche to rule our country whichever way applies best to their private interests”.  

The maintenance of privileges

Out of 55 Federal Deputies who are the target of criminal investigations and prosecutions in the Car Wash Operation, 50 of them – 91% of the total – will run for this year’s elections, according to a survey by the media Estado.

The attempt for a re-election can be interpreted as a means of maintaining the jurisdictional privilege tool, which means that parliament members, government ministers, president and vice-president and members of the higher courts can only be judged by the Supreme Court and not a court of the first instance.

The jurisdictional privilege slows down the course of legal procedures, taking years to be judged and often delivering impunity. According to a recent survey by the Association of Federal Judges (Ajufe), 45,300 beneficiaries have been benefited in various instances of the Judiciary. The number is more than twice the estimate so far made by the Lava-Jato task force in 2015 – of 22,000 people with special jurisdiction.

That puts Brazil among the countries where jurisdictional privilege is most frequently used. On the other hand, in the United States and in the UK, for example, neither the President nor the Prime-Minister has that right, being judged by first instance courts.  

The need for a renewal

Up to now, all the options presented represents no more than an old political class, yet those same figures election after election are so deepened in our system that it ends up covering up candidates with a true intention for renewal. That is the case of João Amoêdo, for example.

João Amoêdo is a successful private sector professional, engineer and business administrator who in 2011 created the Partido Novo or the “New Party”, composed by “common citizens”, that is, with no political experience and who was approved by a selective process in order to run. The party’s ideals revolve around the liberties of the individuals, a free-market society, and less State interference.

That is but one example of a renewal without demagogy: citizens who are unhappy with the way politics have been and decide to take action in order to change the status quo. However, it seems as though all the gears of the system work in order to perpetuate its evil functioning.

João Amoêdo is not being invited by big TV stations to participate in debates. That is because of a law approved which states that TV stations are not obliged to invite for debates candidates whose parties do not have at least five parliamentarians in Congress, although it is the first national election the “New Party” is running for.

Moreover, in other events involving the Presidency candidates, João Amoêdo was uninvited due to the veto of the other candidates. That means that the old political class aims at nothing more but to deprive Brazilian society of a new governmental approach, as it is part of political freedom the exposure of varied proposals.  

Do not lose hope in politics

More than complaining or avoiding the subject, Brazilians need more than ever to take action to protect their rights by consciously using the democratic tool of the vote. Black or null votes transmit the right speech of dissatisfaction, but the wrong concrete action, for it gives space for the old political class to actually remain in power.

We must use the benefits of the means of information in order to look for the right choices. Find material on your candidate, search for their background, question their competence. That is the true way through which we can do something real for the sake of a better country. We must learn how to use Democracy in our favor.

Politics should not be the cause of our uneasiness, but rather vicious politicians. That so-awaited change comes from the sum of each citizen’s efforts and conscious decisions. Therefore, we must start creating that change now.    

Luiz Felipe Moraes

Luiz Felipe Moraes is an Editor for Brazil in the Naked Opinion section of The Pavlovic Today. He is a Yale Young Global Scholar 2016. His interests revolve around International Relations, humanities,...