November 21, 2017
Thursday, August 14, 2014

Campos’ death shakes up electoral dynamics

Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos, poses for a photo with a supporter, during a campaign rally, in Osasco, Brazil, on August 28.
By Carolina Thibaud
Herald Staff
Brazilian election outcome as uncertain as ever, after plane crash kills PSB candidate

Eduardo Campos would have been a key figure in the Brazilian elections in October and his tragic death prompts a number of questions about the future of the race for the Planalto presidential palace.

With President Dilma Rousseff polling at less than 40 percent and the main opposition candidate Aécio Neves rising in polls to close to 25 percent, Campos’ voters could have been decisive in a second round runoff that, at least until yesterday, looked increasingly likely.

Before his death yesterday in a plane crash in the coastal town of Santos, Campos and his running-mate, former Environment minister Marina Silva, had close to 10 percent of voting intentions.

That figure could make or break Rousseff’s chances of re-election and could determine the fate of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), which has managed to hold on to the presidency for three consecutive terms and is now battling for a fourth.


With Silva yet to say if she will run in Campos’ place, it is hard to say what’s going to happen, Brazil expert and Di Tella University professor Germán Lodola told the Herald. This adds further uncertainty to an election that was already hard to call, he added.

Silva served as minister under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva but later broke with the PT and joined the Green Party, which she eventually left to create her own movement in a bid to run for the presidency. But she failed to register her party on time and was left with joining Campos as her only viable option.

Campos also served as a minister during Lula’s first term-in-office, when the PSB was part of the ruling coalition, but he left mainly due to ideological differences with the PT, following the incorporation of minor rightist factions into the governing coalition, Lodola said.

So the alliance of Campos and Silva, even though it surprised many, was not as “out-of-the-blue” as many think.

Brazilian media yesterday reported that Campos’ death “radically” alters the electoral landscape. The Socialist candidate was widely expected to back Neves, from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) in a second round.

Neves’ bet

Could Marina Silva, assuming she runs in Campos’ place, hold on to the 10 percent of voters? It remains to be seen, Lodola believes.

What’s certain is that many PSB voters may see her as not business-friendly enough and may opt for Neves in the first round, potentially leading to a significant boost for the PSDB candidate.

“Aécio is a good candidate. He’s definitely a lot better than (former Sao Paulo governor) José Serra,” Lodola said, referring to a previous candidate who was defeated by Lula da Silva in the 2002 presidential election.

Neves has the unconditional backing of industrialists in Sao Paulo, Lodola explained, but suffers from the same problem that sank previous PSDB candidates in recent elections: he doesn’t appeal to voters outside the Brazilian south, the more affluent part of the country.

It could be argued, Lodola said, that Neves went with Aloysio Nunes as a running-mate (who’s strongly Paulista, like himself) because he was betting on Campos and Silva to add the nationwide appeal that his own formula lacked in an eventual second round.

A ‘tragedy’

Forty-nine-year-old Campos had been governor of the northeastern state of Pernambuco twice and was seen as a young and vigorous politician who could appeal to a broad base. Silva referred to his death yesterday as “a real tragedy.”

Could her running-mate’s death actually incease her own chances? It has happened in the past. The death of former Argentine president Néstor Kirchner boosted his wife and current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in her 2011 election.

Analysts yesterday speculated that Silva could even eat into Rousseff’s leftist base, hurting the president’s chances. The former Environment minister benefited from widespread protests during the Confederations Cup in July 2013 and actually has a higher approval rating than Rousseff.

But the decision is crucial — and not just for the environmentalist. If, for example, she decided not to run “she would be serving an election victory to Rousseff on a plate,” Lodola said.

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