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A decisive second round for the Brazilian left


In these unusual elections of 2020, the country’s political tempo accelerates again almost as soon as the first round of voting is completed. This is due to the short period of time between the first and second rounds of voting in 55 cities. Given that these are some of Brazil’s main municipalities, any assessment of electoral results at this time is of necessity incomplete and provisional. Accordingly, the present editorial proposes to only point to some general elements for the evaluation of the first round and concentrate on the defense of a policy for the second round. In this sense, it is worth noting that, even within the framework of the current reactionary situation which is characterized by a bourgeois offensive, there are elements that signal shifts away from the election results of 2016 and 2018.

Reordering of the forces on the right

In stark contrast to the results of 2018, it is evident that the Bolsonarista avalanche was not sustained. Of the 55 mayoral and councillor candidates that Bolsonaro explicitly declared support for, only thirteen of them won. This makes it possible to speak of an electoral defeat for the president, the political consequences of which will become clearer in the next period. Without a doubt, recent elements of the international conjuncture (USA, Bolivia, Chile), his genocidal approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing loss of popularity in the big cities, and the absence of an organic Bolsonarist party which saw these candidates scattered across different parties, have all weighed heavily.

A significant part of the space lost by the far-right was taken up by the more traditional parties of the Brazilian right, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), and the Democrats (DEM). These parties recovered portions of what they had lost in 2016 and 2018, and even managed to expand their forces, as they are now contesting the second round in nine capitals (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Teresina, Porto Velho, Cuiabá, Boa Vista, Goiânia and Maceió). Another part of this space was taken up by the ‘centrão’, the government parties of the center, the Republicans, the Progressives (PP), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Brazilian Labour Party (PTB), and the Citizenship party, which planted their flags in primarily small and medium-sized municipalities.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that this new composition within the right-wing camp is far from definitive. Bolsonaro still maintains significant loyalty amongst the electorate but must redouble his efforts to create his full-blooded neo-fascist party, the Alliance for Brazil (APB or ALIANÇA). Furthermore, a more accurate assessment of the significance of these results depends on an evaluation of the extent to which the parties that did advance did so by shifting further to the right.

On the left, the PSOL moves forward

In the wake of the coup that overthrew Workers’ Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff, the elections held in 2016 saw an embittered left suffered a harsh defeat, winning in only one single capital, Rio Branco, which the PT held on to. This year, a relative recovery for the left can be seen in the big urban centers. The depth of this recovery still depends on the results of the second round, in which the forces of the left are competing in five capitals and thirteen other large and medium-sized cities in the country, including the major presence of the PT. This has halted the advance of the center-left Democratic Labor Party (PDT) – Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) bloc, which presented itself as a direct alternative to the PT. Results for the PDT-PSB bloc have fallen significantly from those of 2016.

Of note is the fact that the Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) has expanded its space on the left and become the most prominent alternative to the dominance of the PT across the nation. The party elected 88 councillors (a rise of 50%) who are concentrated in the capitals and the big cities. Among them, the participation of oppressed sectors of the working class stands out: almost 40% are women, nearly half are black, and there are also four mandates headed by trans women and another nine who are are part of collective mandates. Thus, while only 8% of all elected representatives are black women, in the PSOL this percentage reaches 36%. In the city of São Paulo, the PSOL not only saw Érika Hilton, a black and trans woman, win the most votes for any councillor in that city; it also saw the election of the first intersex councillor in the country, Carolina Iara, who was part of the five-member Bancada Feminista (Feminist Caucus) collective mandate. Of the PSOL’s 88 elected councilors, 53 of them were elected in capitals or cities with over 200,000 inhabitants.

In Rio de Janeiro, the capital that elected the most PSOL councilors, the party now has seven elected representatives. In Porto Alegre, the party won the most votes for the municipal council, and two young black people were the first (Karen Santos) and fifth (Matheus Gomes) most voted for candidates in that city. In Belo Horizonte, the PSOL’s most voted for councillor was young black woman worker Iza Lourença. In Juiz de Fora, an important city in Minas Gerais, the party elected its first-ever councilor, public school teacher Tallia Sobral, who as a bisexual militant put the LGBT question upfront in her campaign.

A second round that can qualitatively change the electoral landscape

A second round of voting will take place in 55 big and medium-sized cities. The main battle will take place in São Paulo, where Guilherme Boulos (PSOL) faces the ‘tucano’ (toucan – PSBD member) Bruno Covas. The fact that the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) leader, a key player over the last 10 years in important street mobilizations and social struggles in city and country, has actually made it to the second round, is undoubtedly the big surprise and the main progressive phenomenon of these elections.

The left is also in the race in Belém, where Edmilson Rodrigues (PSOL) will take on a Bolsonarista candidate. In Porto Alegre, Manuela D’Ávila from the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) is in a duel with a candidate from the MDB. In Recife, Marília Arraes (PT) is up against PSB candidate João Campos. And in Vitória, João Coser (PT) will compete against a Bolsonarista opponent.

All parties of the left, the PT, PSOL, PCdoB, United Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU), Popular Unity (UP), Workers’ Cause Party (PCO), and the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), along with the social movements and labor unions, must close ranks around Boulos, Edmilson, Manuela, Marília and Coser. It is also necessary to vote for the candidates of the PT that have made it to the second round in thirteen other important cities.

There is also the situation in Fortaleza, where the center-left PDT candidate Sarto Nogueira is running against the Bolsonaro-supported candidate Wagner Sousa Gomes, better known as Captain Wagner, leader of the 2011 mutiny of Military Police officers in Ceará. There is no doubt that the left must unite in calling for a vote for Sarto against the candidate of the far-right. In Rio de Janeiro, the situation is more complicated, as the current mayor and evangelical pastor Marcelo Crivella, who is supported by Bolsonaro, is being opposed by former mayor Eduardo Paes, from the neoliberal right. But even in Rio the vote must be ranked so as to prioritize the fight against Bolsonaro. The main thing at this time is to impose a defeat on Crivella. In the cities where the second round of voting is between representatives of the traditional right, the correct thing to do is to call for a null vote.

Socialists know that elections alter the positions of strength among the different parties and political leaders and influence the contest for popular conscience. That is why we are not indifferent to the electoral contest. But we also know that the main struggle will take place in the streets, with the organization of the working class and the oppressed. The left must use the positions won in these elections to prepare the conditions for the overthrow of Bolsonaro in the streets, before the elections of 2022. It is fundamental that the social movements and parties connected to the working class act decisively in this conjuncture, and build the conditions for massive mobilizations against Bolsonarismo and the bourgeois offensive. Vamos à luta nas eleições e além! (Let’s fight in the elections and beyond!)


This article is an English translation of “Um segundo turno decisivo para a esquerda brasileira”, [https://esquerdaonline.com.br/2020/11/19/eleicoes-segundo-turno-decisivo-para-a-esquerda-brasileira-boulos-edmilson-marilia/], Esquerda Online (EOL), 19/11/2020.

Translation: Bobby Sparks

READ IN SPANISH: Brasil – Una segunda ronda decisiva para la izquierda [https://esquerdaonline.com.br/2020/11/21/brasil-una-segunda-ronda-decisiva-para-la-izquierda/]