Political Polarization

It is a very interesting time here in Brazil, and I have been able to witness political commotion surrounding  current President, Michel Temer, the previous president, Dilma Rousseff, and Lula who came before them. Lula continues to toy with the idea of running for president despite his legal problems. Part of the population is indignant at the thought of Lula running for office considering the evidence of his corrupt practices. Much has also been said about Jair Bolsonaro, who is sometimes called the Donald Trump of Brazil, and about his chances of succeeding in a presidential contest. The following is a summary I was tasked with putting together for our clients based on our Chief Political Scientist, Ricardo Sennes’ analysis of Brazil’s upcoming elections in 2018:

“The current political landscape will not favor a polarizing candidate for the upcoming 2018 elections.  According to research by DataFolha, Brazil is evenly split in terms of political ideology. 10% of the population considers itself to be on the left while another 10% considers itself to be on the right; 30% identifies as center-right and 30% identifies as center-left. Meanwhile, 20% of respondents consider themselves to be in the center. All this suggests that a candidate cannot afford to limit its outreach to its political base if it wants to win an election. In fact, most candidates will want to capture the center in order for him or her to have a viable chance at winning. The challenge for the 2018 election is identifying the candidate who will be able to win over the center.

While Lula is leading in current polls, history seems to show that candidates like him begin the electoral season with strong support only to have their popularity dissipate. The same can be said of polarizing figures such as Bolsonaro.  While his policy ideas are unclear, he is generally considered to be a politician on the extreme right with a limited constituency. Current poll data consistently indicates that most voters prefer a center-right candidate who is a) not involved in the Lava Jato corruption scandal and b) who is able to deal with major crises. Of all the possible candidates for 2018, few exhibit those attributes. This will force candidates to form broad coalitions that attract a larger share of the electorate in order to increase his or her chances of being elected.  While there is always room for populists – from either the right or the left – especially in socially stratified countries, the research indicates that this will not be a threat in Brazil for 2018.”

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