NoSeMancha’s Brazilian election analyst João Schlüter looks back on the first week of TV spots in the presidential campaign.
The Brazilian presidential campaign started in earnest in August 19th – in earnest meaning on TV.
From now on, 3 days a week, twice a day, Brazilian TV channels will broadcast 25 minutes of presidential campaign spots (in addition to programing for other elected officials).
Television campaigning is highly regulated in Brazil and TV time is not bought but distributed among candidates according to the size of their coalition. Given that president Dilma Rousseff is supported by the two largest parties in parliament (PT and PMDB) as well as a host of smaller parties, her campaign is allotted almost half the total (11:24 minutes).
This is more than double the time given to any of the challengers. Minor candidates, which this blog has generally not covered, are guaranteed a minimum of 45 seconds.
The death of Eduardo Campos the overshadowed the opening of TV campaign season as all major contenders paid tribute to the former Pernambuco governor who was killed in a plane crash on August 13th.
A quick review of the main contestant’s spots so far:
Dilma and her PT team have had not only lots of airtime but also plenty of time and resources to prepare a series of choreographed programs.
Her key political messages were laid out already in the first program:
Message #1: Brazil is actually doing great and those who say otherwise are grumpy pessimists rooting against the country.
As discussed before, Dilma’s Achilles heel is the poor economic performance as growth is expected at below one percent this year. The PT argues that actually things in Brazil are much better than in other countries (citing high unemployment in the US and the EU) and that Brazil is on the brink of stating a “new cycle of development”
The PT likes to call those criticizing the current state of things pessimists alleging a lack of belief in and patriotism on their behalf.
Message #2: Dilma needs a second term to complete the projects she started and this second term will be better than the first.
The latter point is made by former president Lula, who urges voters to trust him that Dilma will have a better second term just like he did (his second term was better in terms of the countries economic performance – critics say it was worse in terms of policies enacted).
The truly interesting part here is how Lula implicitly admits that Dilma’s first term wasn’t very good. This is never stated openly, but it was too obvious not to be picked up. It is also a very straightforward way of using the ex-president’s popularity: People need his assurance to trust Dilma – since she doesn’t inspire this kind of trust herself.
Message #3: Dilma is a strong hard-working, compassionate and “normal” woman.
Dilma has never inspired the sympathy of ordinary Brazilians the way her predecessor and mentor Lula did. Her campaign is using a big chunk of its ample airtime to improve her image as a cold, distant and stubborn technocrat.
Her spots are full of beautiful images of the candidate hugging children and discussions of her everyday life: how hard she is working every day, what she likes to cook on the weekend and what her grandson likes to play with in the presidential palace.
The programing also features plenty of crowds cheering her on (probably to contrast her negative reception in the World Cup stadiums) and citizens thankful to receive the benefits of her signature government programs (technical training and social housing).
There are so far three Dilma programs out. The first briefly covers all key messages. The second focuses on her achievements in infrastructure (even talking in detail about the controversial Belo Monte hydropower project in the Amazon). Interestingly, in this edition, ex-president Lula appears at the end denouncing “certain parts of the media” who he sees as biased against the government and a “greater opposition than any political party”.
We can expect future programs to cover other key areas of her administration such as healthcare, education or social inclusion.
The third goes in detail on her personal life:
The opposition doesn’t have the luxury of time.
Aécio, of the center-right PSDB, used his 4 and a half minutes of his first TV spot to attack the governments performance (after a tribute to his “long-time friend” Eduardo Campos).
Interesting detail: towards the end, the candidate who is considered a skilled orator, breaks out into a tirade of welcoming all parts of society and Brazilians from all corners of the country. Clearly an effort to counter the popular perception that the PSDB is an “elitist” party only looking out for wealthy south-easterners.
In a later edition he focuses on his own achievements as governor of Minas Gerais and leader of the PSDB in parliament:
The PSB, having lost it’s candidate a few days before TV campaigning started is lacking preparation for her new slate (Marina Silva and Beto Alburquerque) and time as they only have about 2 minutes.
They used the first edition to pay homage to Mr, Campos, using images from the campaign trail. In subsequent editions Ms. Silva takes center stage, first praising the deceased candidate and then laying out her case for a third-way government beyond the long standing PT – PSDB polarization.
Understandably, her spots lacked the sophistication of the other candidates who clearly had more time to prepare. However, given her recent surge in the polls, it will be interesting to see how she uses her limited airtime going forward.
All the same, the prize for funniest TV spot goes to candidate for re-election to Congress and professional clown Tiririca – featuring himself has Brazilian popular music legend Roberto Carlos: