João Schlüter on the shocking results of Round One in Brazil
The people have spoken and they had some surprises in store. As expected President Dilma won the first round with over 40 percent of valid votes, but the narrow race for second place that the polls (and yours truly) expected did not materialize.
This is because Aécio Neves of the center-right PSDB did surprisingly well, winning about 10 percentage points more than expected from recent polls and handily leaving Marina in third place.
Does that mean he will beat Dilma?
At least that is what the markets are thinking: they rallied 6 percent upon opening on Monday. Based on his first round performance, he certainly has a chance in the second round.
For now however, I’m sticking with my previous prediction that Dilma will be reelected.
The key question for the second round is: where is Aecio’s ceiling? And if it’s high enough, can he get there?
To the floor or to the ceiling?
It’s been my conviction for a long time that Aécio (and probably any PSDB candidate) has a ceiling too low to win a presidential election. By this I mean he could never be a viable candidate for a great enough portion of the electorate.
Does Sunday’s outcome change this view?
Maybe. Given how the polls underestimated Aécio in the first round, maybe we should question any ceiling estimation based on the second round polls out today. Or maybe we shouldn’t.
My view has long been that Aécio’s ceiling, the maximum of the electorate who will vote for him under any reasonable circumstance is around 40 to 45 percent. I think the reason for the discrepancy between the polls and the outcome in the first round is not that Aécio has a higher ceiling.
After all, his 33.5 percent are well within it. He was simply better able to mobilize his potential support than pollsters expected.
Many voters who were torn between him and Marina opted for him as the polls were turning in his favor and the PSDB’s get-out-the-vote effort was strong. Meanwhile, Marina did not really come across as somebody who could be trusted to steward the state.
Aécio’s results have a regional slant
Neves did extraordinary well in São Paulo, home to about a quarter of the electorate, reciving 44 percent there–well ahead of both Dilma and Marina. This is not too surprising. São Paulo is one of the wealthiest states (Aécio does better among the wealthy) and his party, the PSDB, is very strong there (the PSDB governor was reelected on Sunday with 57 percent of the vote).
His ceiling there would have to be higher in any case. Also, São Paulo is home to much of Brazil’s manufacturing, especially the auto industry which has been hit hard by the economic slump of recent years. A lot of folks there don’t like Dilma.
However Aécio lost the other two large Southeastern states, including his home state Minas Gerais (though he claims to be very popular there) and Rio de Janeiro, where Marina polled a strong 31 percent, behind Dilma with 36. In Rio, Aécio only reached 27 percent.
As could be expected, Aécio performed poorly in the northeast and north, reaching about 20 percent on average. In Pernambuco, the second largest state in the region and seventh largest overall he only received 6 percent of the vote, losing massively to Marina in Eduardo Campos’ home state.
The numbers game
So now the struggle begins as the Dilma camp and the Aécio camp battle for Marina’s voters, as well as anyone else up for grabs. Here is the math:
Starting with the assumption that both candidates keep there votes and the non-valid voters stay out, I would assume that of the 3.5 percent that went to minor candidates Dilma will get about 2 percentage points (from the left-leaning voters of Luciana Genro and Eduardo Jorge) and Neves will get about 1 point (from the Everaldo and Fidelix camp), with the remainder dropping out of the valid vote.
This means that Aécio needs to win more than 71 percent of the Marina Silva first round voters. Not impossible, but a tall order, given that the Marina camp was always somewhere in-between the PT and PSDB block. In 2010, the PSDB candidate got little more than half of her than 19 percent.
So What Now
A struggle for endorsements
Both candidates will try to get some sort of endorsement from the Marina camp. Expect horse trading. Marina and her vice-presidential candidate hinted that their voters wanted change, but they have not endorsed anyone yet. I would guess that Marina herself will not endorse either candidate, just as she did in 2010.
But others might. There could even be a split between Marina and her core followers of the Sustainability Network (Rede) and the establishment of the PSB – the Campos block.
In recent weeks the Dilma campaign focused on bringing down Marina. Mission accomplished. Now the PT’s artillery will be rearranged to once again fire on the old foes of the PSDB.
Expect lots of allegations, talk about the bad old days etc. Of course the PSDB will due the same, and they will have more ammunition now, as air time is divided equally (10 minutes each) in the second round.
Momentum in the polls
Aécio clearly has the momentum at this point. Expect him to rise in the polls that will come out in the next days. This may give us a better idea of his ceiling. Let’s see if he can get near 50 percent in the polls. The PT is prepared for a Neves surge, but they will count on that wave dissipating by election day, just as it did for Marina.
Conclusion? Get your popcorn ready
As of right now we should expect a close second round election. Dilma performed worse in the first round than she did in 2010 when she won 47 percent in the first round and beat José Serra definitively 56 to 44 percent in the second.
Aécio isn’t as dull as Serra and the climate is more favorable to change this time around.
This could come down the narrowest of margins.
João Schlüter is a Brazilian political analyst and insider covering the Brazilian presidential election for No Se Mancha.
See all of João’s election coverage HERE
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