The only black woman presidential candidate, Marina Silva, shuts down ultra right wing candidate, “the Brazilian Trump”, in debate; but can she win election?
By Marques Travae
It’s hard to believe, but in just 43 days, Brazilians will head to the polls for the first time since re-electing Dilma Rousseff, the second straight PT (Worker’s Party) president and the hand-picked successor of the PT’s first two term president, Lula da Silva. And the reason why this moment is a little hard to believe is because so much has happened in Brazil since that last election. That election happened in the same year that the nation hosted the World Cup for the first time in 64 years and two years before it hosted the Olympics for the first time.
Perhaps more significantly, we’ve seen the impeachment of Rousseff, a declining economy, the imprisonment da Silva, the fall of numerous business/political figures as fall out from one the country’s biggest scandals, Lavo Jato, or Operation Car Wash. And to top all of that off, the Dollar to Real exchange rate has once again surpassed the 4-1 ratio. Many posit that this year’s election could make or break the country’s fortunes for decades to come. But with the country’s current president and Rousseff replacement, Michel Temer, being one of the country’s least popular presidents of all-time and one of its most popular, da Silva, being imprisoned, it’s been difficult to surmise who of the current candidates has enough support and momentum to capture the presidential sashe this fall.
For me, this was a bit strange. Just last March I remember asking numerous Brazilians who the greatest contender for the presidency would be and no one seemed to be able to give a clear answer. This just seven months before the election. Of course, this blog has covered the controversial figure of Congressman Jair Bolsonaro in a number of posts, and for good reason. Brazilians seem to either love or detest the military veteran. But who else is there to talk about?
For those of you who were here for the last election cycle, you may remember the name Marina Silva. Silva has participated in the past two elections. In 2010, as the Partido Verde (Green Party) candidate, she came in third place in the presidential election, taking in 19% of the total first round votes. In 2014, she entered the race originally as the Vice running mate of the Brazilian Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos before Campos would die in plane crash in the city of Santos in August of the that year. Silva took the reins of her Socialist Party’s candidacy and for a brief period, looked to be heading to a run off with President Rousseff in the second round of the election with 21% of the votes before being edged out in the last few days by eventual Rousseff challenger Aécio Neves.
Silva’s run made headlines as she garnered support due to her poor background, her connection to slain rubber tapper Chico Mendes and the her possibility of becoming the first black woman president. But she has also drawn opposition to her anti-gay marriage and abortion stances. The Movimento Negro has also called out Silva for her almost non-existent postures on issues pertinent to the black community. Then there are accusations that despite her poor origins, today’s Silva is not at all the representative of “the people” as she may seem, what with her connections to Globalist interests in Brazil and support from controversial elements such as billionaire magnate George Soros’ Open Society. Critics also point out Silva being much more in favor of Israeli policies in relation to Palestinians. Silva participates in the Pentecostal Assembly of God that often welcomes the “Zionist Christian” movement and Pro-Israeli organizations.
This is just a brief breakdown of Silva’s image and affiliations, but where is she as a candidate for Brazilian president in 2018?
Well, this just as interesting as her political background. You see, the entire election this year in incumbent upon whether imprisoned former President Lula da Silva will be available to run. Earlier this month, Lula’s party, the PT, officially released Lula’s candidacy for president even as he continues to sit in a Curitiba, Paraná, prison on a corruption conviction of which his party says he is innocent.
Incredible as it seems, Lula continues to lead polls of intended votes, actually widening his lead from 30 to 39% in the past month. His closest competitor, Jair Bolsonaro, has only 19% with Marina Silva coming in third at 8%. This year’s election reports have had to present the election possibility in two scenarios: one involving Lula being able to run and another with him not being able to run. In a scenario in which Lula’s name is not on the ballot, Bolsonaro has 22% of intended votes with Marina jumping to 16%.
Investors have clearly shown their rejection of the return of Lula government and this became even more evident this past week as the US Dollar soared to a value of R$4.11 against the Brazilian Real. The fact of the matter is that it is highly improbable that Lula will be able to run as Brazilian law prohibits any candidate in which conviction is on appeal, the situation in which the charismatic two term president finds himself.
The Lula/no Lula scenario present an avalanche of possibilities. Although Bolsonaro has been a favorite in a no Lula election and has been able to capitalize on Brazilian weariness of corruption in politics, he has also angered a large parcel of the population with past controversial anti-black, anti-gay and anti-women, anti-indigenous comments. And Bolsonaro runs a higher percentage of “there’s no way I’ll vote for him/her” opinions than most of the other candidates. As such, what would be the possibility of Marina Silva winning the election in a run-off situation?
Marina continues to trail Bolsonaro in both a Lula and no Lula scenario and with more debates coming, she could easily gain or lose ground in the coming weeks. In 2014, she had a strong showing right up until the last week when Neves managed to overcome her lead. But the main question in deciphering Marina’s chances will be, assuming Lula cannot compete, is how his supporters will divide their support.
After having competed in two prior elections, of all of the candidates, voters are most familiar with Marina (93%) after Lula and second most remembered among Lula supporters. Of the voters who intend on voting for Lula, 12% would vote for Marina if Lula is not available.
A recent one-term mayor of the city of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad, is Lula’s running mate for vice-president with the PT and will assume the presidential bid if it is confirmed that Lula cannot run. But even being from the PT and affiliated with Lula, Haddad will not receive all of Lula’s votes and with Marina being a candidate that appeals to the poorer segments of society, she will clearly cipher away some would be Lula votes even across party lines, Marina’s party is Rede. This is clear as Marina has gained 19% support from voters who earn up two minimum salaries per month, R$1,908 (USD$480) per month while Bolsonaro’s support among this segment is 14%.
In a no Lula scenario, Marina is also strong among women, getting support from 19% of the feminine absent Lula. With a large percentage of undecided women (5%) voters and those who will vote null (13%), Marina’s chances increase if she able to away these women into her camp. What could hinder Marina’s chances is being represented a small political party. For political expert Humberto Dantes, as Election Day nears, she may lose ground because she simply doesn’t have the same financial support she had in 2014.
If these numbers and facts leave one bewildered as to Marina’s real chances, there is yet another factor that speaks to the idea that this year’s race is still anyone’s game. Jair Bolsonaro has carried a lead over his immediate competitors over the past several months in a no Lula scenario. But a new study shows that in a runoff election, after the first round, Bolsonaro would lose in a head to head election against any of his closest rivals, including Marina, former São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) and Ciro Gomes (PDT). In a run off against his main competition, Bolsonaro only would win if he were pitted against former SP mayor and probable Lula replacement, Haddad. This again reverts to Bolsonaro’s highest percentage of “There’s no way I’d vote for him” opinions.
All of this information could make a recent face to face debate between Bolsonaro and Marina all the more relevant in the minds of the voters. In a face off, Bolsonaro, a former Army Captain, asks Marina if she is in favor of citizens having the right to bear arms. Silva responds that she’s not before taking Bolsonaro to task on his past stances, including his views on equal salaries for women.
(Video courtesy of Kiratiana YouTube channel. See here.)
After this video went viral, it seems things didn’t go too well for Bolsonaro. On top of the fact that the candidate has admitted to not understanding economics very well, he has not performed very well and has drawn criticism for his performance in the debates thus far. And with an evident verbal smack down in the Marina head to head debate going viral, Bolsonaro’s camp is announcing that there is a 40-50% chance that he will not participate in the remaining debates because “He’s sick of these innocuous debates, which lead to nothing.”
I’m sure that’s the only reason. Sounds like a lot of hot air and no fire. And in this case, if she continues to perform well, the outcome could surprise many and lead to yet another female presidency in the form of Marina Silva.