Elections: Neither women nor blacks among the favorites to govern Brazil | International
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Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is 76 years old. His number two on the list for the presidential elections, Geraldo Alckmin, 70. President Jair Bolsonaro, 67, chose his former Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto, 65, as his vice-presidential candidate. of the Planalto, in Brasilia, after the October elections are men, white, heterosexual and have gray hair. They are in a country with a majority of women, where half the population is under 30 years old and where 56% define themselves as black or mestizo.
Women are not at the top of the lists, in contrast to a growing tendency in the rest of the region for candidates to reflect social diversity, be it gender, color or origin. And it represents a setback compared to the elections four years ago, when all the major parties put a woman as number two, with the exception of Bolsonaro.
This year, the Brazilian president has received a lot of pressure to appoint the former Minister of Agriculture Tereza Cristina Dias as a candidate for vice president, but in the end he opted for a retired general, as he did in 2018. In the act in which he presented in Rio de Janeiro her candidacy for re-election, the far-right leader showered her with praise: “She is a giant in the ministry, a great little woman who makes a difference.” But the only woman who spoke at that rally was one who did not dispute any position: Michelle Bolsonaro, the first lady. Her public display is considered key to attracting the female vote, which rejects the president by 60%. The paradox is that precisely in the elections where women’s vote will be decisive, the parties have bet everything on men, and not only in the race for the federal government. In the 27 states that make up Brazil, there will only be two candidates for governor.
In April, when Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party (PT) made the unusual alliance official with Alckmin, the former right-wing rival, a photo spread like wildfire on social networks. Among the 15 attendees at the meeting, all white, there were only two women: Lula’s wife, Janja, and the PT president, Gleisi Hoffmann. On Twitter, the leftist militants themselves shouted to the heavens. “Zero black people, zero trans people and so go zeros. From what it seems, that will be the face of the Government if it wins”, wrote an Internet user.
Former President Lula himself, knowing that the photo would bring a queue, wanted to anticipate criticism by saying that he wanted more female representation at the next meeting and explaining, with surprise, that in Mexico the Chamber of Deputies has 52% women, the Senate 46% and there are 35% female mayors. In Brazil, these percentages are around 15%. “I don’t want to get to that much so quickly, but at least distribute the chairs a little more and place more women,” he said. But good intentions, even more so with that patronizing patina and no sense of urgency, are not enough. In Brazil, “representativeness” is on everyone’s lips, but it does not reach the highest echelons of power. What’s going on?
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For the co-director of the Alziras Institute, Michelle Ferreti, the parties function as a stopper and are not channeling the demands that exist on the street. “We live the resistance of the leaders of the traditional parties, because in the end this is a zero-sum game. For someone to sit on the chair, someone has to get up. And nobody wants to give up their privileges, ”she criticizes. Ferreti’s organization, which works for the inclusion of more women in Brazilian politics, is named after Luiza Alzira Teixeira Soriano, the first woman to win an election in Brazil and the first female mayor in Latin America. He seized power from the small city of Lajes, in the State of Rio Grande do Norte, in 1929. Since then things have changed a lot, but milestones such as the arrival of Dilma Rousseff to the presidency (2011-2016) with the Workers’ Party remain exceptions to the rule.
A few weeks ago, the Brazilian left celebrated that a woman, Afro-descendant and environmentalist, Francia Márquez, won the vice presidency of Colombia. The youth of the new leader of Chile, Gabriel Boric (he is 36 years old), and his Government, where the ministers are the majority, were also celebrated. In Brazil, the pre-campaign augurs a very different future: among the candidates for the presidency, Senator Simone Tebet is the only woman who appears in the polls, which give her a 2% voting intention. Part of her party, the MDB, is already pressing for her to throw in the towel and thus be able to embrace Lula’s candidacy, the clear favorite over the rest.
The legislative power battle
With the battle for the lists for the executive branch apparently lost, those for the legislative remain. In mid-August, the deadline to submit candidacies to the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the legislative assemblies of the States ends. Then it will be seen if the growing pressure of the black, indigenous and feminist movement translates into greater diversity, although one thing is the candidacies and another the chances of success. In 2018, half of the candidates were from black people, and only 4% were elected. Black women, in fact, are the most underrepresented: they make up 28% of the population, but occupy only 2% of the seats in the National Congress.
Legal quotas to promote the entry of women into politics have existed in Brazil for 25 years, but the parties have been circumventing them in different ways until 2018, when a reform forced not only to reserve 30% of the lists for women , but to finance his campaign proportionally. More recently, congresswoman Benedita da Silva, who at the time was the country’s first black senator, managed to get campaign resources shared equally between whites and blacks.
Ferreti believes that the tools created in recent years are “fundamental” and that they must be valued, because now the money is better distributed, but he considers that to really change the photo, more daring measures are needed. “It is not that Brazil is falling behind. It’s already back a long time ago. Brazil had the first Latin American female mayor, but after 100 years we have made very little progress. Our neighbors advanced much more, because they had the courage to reserve seats for women in the legislative power, ”she points out, and she cites the cases of Mexico, Chile or Bolivia. Establishing quotas for the seats, and not the lists, would be the way to ensure that there will be women yes or yes.
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