from WorldPoliticsReview Website
under a picture of former President Dilma Rousseff,
at the presidential residence, Brasilia, Brazil, Sept. 6, 2016
(AP photo by Eraldo
For too long, there has been little accountability in Brazilian politics.
Corrupt politicians often benefit from both an intricate and lax judicial system and public opinion that seems to be, in many cases, overly lenient toward cases of corruption.
The proverb that,
...could apply to every Brazilian politician - and not just their spouses.
Many suspicious or even formally
suspected figures lurk in the sizable shadow of doubt that looms
over the country's political landscape. Almost 40 percent
of Brazil's lawmakers are currently under some kind of investigation.
Judicial and investigative institutions, while still imperfect, have grown stronger in recent years. Independent judges and prosecutors have more legal tools at their disposal to uncover elaborate corruption schemes involving large swathes of the country's political class and business elites.
The ongoing investigation into kickbacks at the state run energy giant, Petrobras, known as "operation car wash," is the clearest example.
For the first time in Brazil's history,
powerful politicians have been taken to court and, in several cases,
This may be partially explained by the impressive process of poverty alleviation and increase in standards of living, driven by several years of above-average economic growth rates and successful social policies that brought millions of Brazilians out of poverty and ultimately led to the rise of a new and more emboldened middle class.
With more and better jobs available and higher levels of income, voter preferences tend to shift from core economic issues of jobs and income and toward other issues such as the quality of education, health care, transportation and the rule of law, which in Brazil's case more or less means corruption.
Brazil's current leaders are not used to
addressing these new demands and living up to higher expectations.
Until former President Dilma Rousseff
was impeached this summer, the PT had been in power in Brazil for
the past 13 years.
Correlations between municipal elections and national politics in Brazil should always be taken with a grain of salt. After all, particular circumstances and motivations often shape the local political landscape and do not always make their way into the national debate.
This is particularly the case in small and medium-sized towns, or those with less than 200,000 people, which account for roughly 98 percent of Brazil's 5,568 municipalities; only 92 cities are large enough to hold elections in two rounds, according to electoral rules.
In many of these cities, for instance,
voters tend to prioritize parochial interests and public works
rather than follow the ideological proclivities that set the tone at
the national level.
adopt more radical rhetoric as an opposition party,
the legacy of Rousseff's government and her impeachment
will still weigh against the
The strong showing by the main parties in President Michel Temer's ruling coalition, the conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), was not a sign of his government gaining strength or an indication of the beginning of a right-wing tide in Brazil.
In fact, it is not uncommon for local
political alliances to cross the government-opposition divide at the
Although the pretext of Rousseff's
ouster was the violation of budget laws, the context was the
uncovering of the world's biggest corruption scandal at Petrobras,
which occurred under her watch. All of this unfolded during the
worst economic recession in the country's history - to a great
extent self-inflicted, given Rousseff's poor policy choices.
That led to a stunning 60 percent decline in the number of cities controlled by the PT, dropping the party from third to 10th place among the largest parties at the local level. The results were also bleak in state capitals. The PT went from having four of 26 state capital mayors elected in 2012 to just one in 2016; another candidate is facing a runoff election but is unlikely to win.
The PT's performance in Brazil's two largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, was even worse.
In Sao Paulo, the party's incumbent
mayor lost in the first round - a first for the city. In Rio, the
PT-backed candidate finished the race in a disappointing fifth
place, with less than 4 percent of the votes.
The damage to the party's image brought
about by the economic crisis and the Petrobras scandal will simply
be too much to overcome. While the PT is likely to adopt more
radical rhetoric as an opposition party, the legacy of Rousseff's
government and her impeachment will still weigh against the party's
The decisive victory of Joao Doria - a millionaire businessman with no political background, and the former host of Brazil's version of "The Apprentice," no less - in the mayor's race in Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, is a sign of an anti-establishment mood gaining ground.
Growing discontent with the political class more broadly, and with the PT in particular, may transform the current middle-class discontent into a wider force for protest votes.
That has set up 2018's presidential
election to be much more fragmented and competitive than the ones in
recent decades - and thus harder to predict.
After all, the PT does not have a monopoly on corruption.
But even if its rivals are held
accountable, the changing mood in public opinion suggests that the
PT's resurrection might still have to wait a little longer than