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Braga Netto vs. Alckmin: names chosen for VP indicate opposing electoral strategies

While Bolsonaro bets on a “pure ticket”, Lula begins to dialogue with center and right-wing parties with the help of his

Brasília (DF) |
Braga Netto already held important positions in Bolsonaro's government; Geraldo Alckmin (right) governed the state of São Paulo for 14 years in total. - Marcelo Camargo/ Agência Brasil

The official launching of Braga Neto as a vice presidential candidate on Jair Bolsonaro’s ticket, on July 24, deepened the differences with former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s candidacy. That is the claim made by political scientists and analysts about the Brazilian electoral process. You can read below their comments regarding the strategic differences of the leftist candidate in choosing his ticket partner – a “brand-new” Geraldo Alckmin – and other factors that contribute to Lula heading the polls. 

From heading the federal intervention in the state of Rio de Janeiro to Jair Bolsonaro’s vice candidate for the presidency in this year’s elections, the political ascension of general Braga Netto coincides with military personnel’s aspiration for higher posts in the federal government.

It is a bond well celebrated by the president, who is running for reelection. He and his vice will be put through their paces in the upcoming elections since theirs is a “pure ticket”, that is, a ticket formed by candidates from the same political party (in their case, the Liberal Party). The effects of this decision are still to be tested in the forthcoming polls but they are already subject to interpretation.

“That is the message: if we mess with Bolsonaro, would we be messing with the Armed Forces? It is another of those signs of this ongoing coup we have been living through”, states political scientist Rosemary Segurado, professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP, in Portuguese), who also warns that “today’s coups are not like they used to be in the 60s and 70s, with tanks on the streets. Currently, they are evolving within institutions, just as Bolsonaro has been doing since his first day in office." 

The inevitable comparison between the approaches taken by the two main candidates for the presidency in their electoral campaigns is also made by Renato Barbosa de Souza, professor of Information Science at the University of Brasilia (UnB, in Portuguese). 

“I think it points out a commitment the current president has with the military. It shows that he tries to be surrounded by the military to portray strength. As for Lula, he is attempting to broaden his support base. 

La sintonía entre exrivales causó sorpresa 

La estrategia del líder del PT va precisamente en contra de la opción "casera" de Bolsonaro. Además de evitar los discursos de odio, retomando la imagen de "paz y amor", Lula busca presentarse como un constructor de puentes y una vía conciliadora, con el fin de frenar la división social agudizada desde el ascenso de la extrema derecha al poder. 

Por eso, a mediados de marzo, con mucha antelación, el Partido de los Trabajadores ya había confirmado su opción por el exgobernador de São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin, para ser vicepresidente de Lula. Un guiño a sectores más conservadores y de derecha, que se encontraron en el interés común de defender la democracia y decidieron superar choques históricos e incluso la disputa electoral de 2006.
Alckmin, quien siempre ha sido un acérrimo crítico del PT, también mostró una flexibilidad considerada sorprendente, transformando su imagen y sus discursos tras unirse al Partido Socialista Brasileño (PSB). Este viernes 29, durante la convención nacional de su partido y junto a Lula, volvió a mostrar sintonía con las ideas de quien empezó a tratar como "compañero".

"Es un día para demostrar que estamos unidos, firmes y decididos, para sacar a Brasil del fanatismo político, de la ruinosa política económica que volvió a poner a Brasil en el mapa del hambre, que trajo de vuelta la inflación, que empobreció", dijo Alckmin, ante un auditorio lleno de apoyadores en Brasilia.
Para Segurado, hay cierta "química" entre los dos políticos que se nota cuando están juntos y también cuando Alckmin hace apariciones en solitario. "Y parece que Alckmin está muy cómodo en este rol en el partido socialista [risas], con un perfil un poco más radical que su trayectoria política, más conservadora. Los conflictos internos fueron acomodados o resueltos, en fin, no hay ningún problema interno aparente", dice.

Well-oiled relations between former opponents cause surprise

The strategy taken by the leftist leader is the exact opposite of Bolsonaro’s “homemade” choice. Besides avoiding hate speeches and recovering the "peace and love" image, Lula wants to be seen as a bridge builder and a conciliator, seeking to stop Brazil's social division, exacerbated since the far-right came to power.

Therefore, in mid-March this year and well in advance, the Workers’ Party had already confirmed its option for Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of São Paulo state, as Lula’s vice presidential candidate. It was a nod to the most conservative sectors of society and to the right wing, which share the same interest in defending democracy to overcome historical clashes, including an electoral dispute in the 2006 elections.

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Alckmin, who always was a staunch critic of the Workers’ Party, also showed surprising and considerable flexibility, altering his image and speeches after joining the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB, in Portuguese). On July 29, during his party's national convention and together with Lula, Alckmin, once again, demonstrated he was in tune with the ideas of the man who he now calls “companion”. 
 
“Today is a day to show we are united, steady, and determined to make Brazil free from political fanatism and ruinous economic policy that put Brazil back on the hunger map, which brought back inflation and poverty”, stated Alckmin in front of an auditorium full of his ticket’s supporters in the city of Brasilia. 

To Segurado, there is a kind of “chemistry” taking place between the two politicians that can be noticed when they are together, and also when Alckmin is by himself on the stage. “It looks like Alckmin is very comfortable in a socialist party (laughs), with a more radicalized approach than that of his political trajectory, which is more conservative. The internal edges have been accommodated or solved. In short, there is no apparent internal problem", he says.

Candidacies of the so-called “third way” skid and may merge with others 

In recent days, Lula has tried to further expand his support base in order to win the elections in the first round. An agreement is being made with Union Brazil, a political party that is the result of the merger of the conservative parties Democrats and Liberal Social Party, looking to the withdrawal of Luciano Bivar's candidacy (Union Brazil, Pernambuco state) for the Planalto Palace. In exchange, Pernambuco’s Workers’ Party, with the help of Lula, would make efforts to reelect Bivar as a federal deputy.

Another element making headlines and benefiting the Workers’ Party campaign is the publication of a letter in defense of democracy. Since July 26, more than 400,000 people have signed the letter, including bankers and influential businessmen, and businesswomen. Faced with this new setback, Bolsonaro mocked the movement and declared himself a democrat.

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In favor of both candidates, there is uncertainty regarding candidates for vice president on Ciro Gomes’ (Democratic Labor Party) ticket and Simone Tebet’s (Brazilian Democratic Movement) ticket. With candidacies already made official by their respective parties and visible difficulties in attracting big names, Ciro gave statements praising the possibility of Tebet, who is a senator from Mato Grosso do Sul state, embarking on his campaign as vice.

The difficulty in creating “new facts”, which can be seen in the polls, may be a sign for Bolsonaro to focus on his most loyal voters base. “Somehow, it is the right way to see things, because polls show that there are only 4% or 5% of undecided voters. Therefore, there is a margin of voters to conquer, and the scenario is well consolidated, about 80% in both Lula and Bolsonaro", explains Rosemary Segurado. 

In this case, Ciro Gomes' approximately 8% supporters could still be disputed by Bolsonaro. "But I don't believe these votes will go to him, even with all the effort Ciro has made to compete with Lula, of whom he was a minister", she adds.

Maybe the danger is the next palace

Since Michel Temer had a key role in plotting Dilma Roussef’s impeachment, in 2016, the post of vice president acquired menacing nuances. Before Dilma was stripped of her office, vice presidents were usually associated with advisers or interlocutors in strategic sectors. That was, for instance, the role of Marco Maciel in the Congress to former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and José de Alencar to Lula in dealing with businessmen and businesswomen during his first term as president. 

According to Brazil’s Constitution, the vice president fills in the presidency when the president is traveling, ill, or under extreme situations such as impeachment, in addition to the possibility of filling in the position during special missions. Sociologist Fernanda Sobral, vice president of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC, in Portuguese), believes these points must be clear to the parts.

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“The role of vice president is very significant. He can even stay behind the scenes and appear much less than the president, which is normal, but he influences the president. That's the good side of it. On the other hand, there are vice presidents who come into conflict with presidents. Therefore, it is crucial for both of them to be committed to the electoral program and to follow it", she explains. 

In spite of the fact that it is unknown what role Braga Netto would play in the government if Bolsonaro is reelected, Rosemary Segurado believes that he may serve as a "cleaning" brake for the government. She believes Alckmin would receive some assignments if Lula wins. “Knowing Lula's profile, which is different from Dilma's, I think he can attribute [to Alckmin] responsibilities similar to those he gave to José de Alencar, such as maintaining dialogue with the elite and financial capital," she says.

Rodrigo Rollemberg (Brazilian Socialist Party), Federal District’s former governor, also believes Alckmin cultivated expertise while heading the country’s richest state, which makes him "more than decorative". "He can help mediate, govern and create relationships with the National Congress, with functioning civil society institutions and businessmen and businesswomen," he says.

Edited by: Flávia Chacon