Brazil votes for municipal authorities in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic

Brazilians began voting this Sunday for municipal elections organized under the threat of the novel coronavirus pandemic. They could confirm the sharp turn to the right that began with the election of Jair Bolsonaro two years ago.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (11 a.m. in Paris) with a first priority period of three hours for elderly voters, at risk of Covid-19 infection. A second wave of the disease is feared in the country.

The pandemic, which has killed more than 165,000 in Brazil, the second most bereaved country in the world, forced the authorities to postpone the vote scheduled for October. Despite the precautions in place, fear of the coronavirus may limit participation.

Bolsonaro wants to “eradicate communism”

Strict health measures have been taken for this first round to which 148 million Brazilians are called. They are encouraged to bring their own pen, to disinfect their hands several times and to respect distancing at polling stations.

The ballot should result in the election of 5,500 mayors, but also of their municipal councilors. As in every election, there was no shortage of wacky candidatures, such as that, for the post of city councilor, of a “Chloroquine Captain”, in reference to the controversial treatment Jair Bolsonaro praises against the coronavirus.

These municipal elections are the first electoral test of Jair Bolsonaro’s mandate, which began in January 2019. The head of state, isolated on the international scene and weakened in mid-term after the defeat of his model Donald Trump in the US presidential election, announced that he would not get involved in an essentially local campaign. But the far-right leader has multiplied this week direct on Facebook to support his candidates and “eradicate communism”.

Presidential support is described as a “kiss of death” by editorial writers as Bolsonaro’s foals seem to be on a bad start to qualify for the second round on November 29, according to polls. Thus, the former neo-Pentecostal pastor Marcelo Crivella, outgoing mayor of Rio de Janeiro, is far ahead of his predecessor Eduardo Paes (2009-2016). The same goes for TV presenter Celso Russomanno in Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city, where center-right mayor Bruno Covas is given favorite for re-election.

The left in reconquest

Jair Bolsonaro enjoying the support of 40% of Brazilians, analysts are still counting on a new conservative wave, with the election of candidates for the security discourse, including many ex-soldiers, and a strengthening of the traditional right-wing parties. However, it will be difficult to draw national lessons from this election, Bolsonaro no longer being affiliated with a party since he left his last year, his ninth formation in his 30-year political career.

The left, while remaining very divided, could record significant gains. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party (PT) suffered the worst defeat in its history in 2016 with the loss of more than 60% of the municipalities conquered in the previous election. Manuela D’Avila, of the Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B) and associated with the PT, is for example well placed to kidnap the city of Porto Alegre.

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