Dispute for the interior should define elections for the government

Dispute for the interior should define elections for the government
Dispute for the interior should define elections for the government

Recent electoral polls show an unprecedented scenario in the dispute for the government of São Paulo. Never in its history has the PT been in the lead, a position now occupied by Fernando Haddad and which has been consolidated with each new survey.

In second place, a clash that symbolizes the internal disputes of the national right since the 2018 election. the 1990s.

The main challenge for everyone is the same: to win the votes of voters from the interior of the state, a public used to voting for the PSDB but whose confidence was shaken by the management of João Doria at the head of the state.

“It is interesting to note that São Paulo is a state in which the interior has a larger electorate than the capital, and it is fundamental in the decision of the government elections. So much so that in the last election, Marcio França won in the capital, but lost in the countryside, and that was what gave Doria the victory.”, says political scientist Maria Teresa Miceli Kerbauy, professor at Unesp in Bauru and co-organizer of the book “Politics in São Paulo. An analysis of political party dynamics in the state”.

“It’s not two or three cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants that are important, there are many cities. And all of them with a profile. You have diversity, but it is a profile of search for more adequate public policies”, he evaluates. “Perhaps the region of Vale do Ribeira has a slightly differentiated characteristic, but it has a certain uniformity of economic development in the interior that reflects perhaps in a form of representation that is best suited for this development.”

The numbers confirm this relevance. The capital gathers 26.8% of the São Paulo electorate, the municipalities in the metropolitan region are about 10% and the interior concentrates the remaining 63% of the voters in the state.

In a meeting with social movements and trade union centrals, the PT candidate received documents with proposals and various demands / Roberto Parizotti/CUT

threatened hegemony

The division follows the patterns identified by the political scientist in the electoral behavior of Paulistas. Capital and metropolitan regions tend to follow similar trends, with greater openness to the PT, which has its political cradle in the region. On the other hand, the interior has historically had a unique tendency: the vote for the PSDB.

The party has governed the state since 1994, when it won for the first time with Mário Covas. Since then, he has won the first round elections three times: in 2006, with José Serra, and in 2010 and 2014 with Geraldo Alckmin, now in the PSB and an ally of Haddad.

In 2018, the party had its tightest victory: João Doria received 51.75% in the second round, against 48.25% for Marcio França (PSB), today a candidate for the Senate in the PT coalition.

The result symbolizes the legend’s loss of space to the extreme right led by Jair Bolsonaro (PL). Protagonist in all presidential elections also since 1994, the PSDB saw Geraldo Alckmin embitter a fourth place, with only 4.76% of the votes.

The crisis was also reflected in the Legislative elections, with the party falling from 54 federal deputies elected in 2014, when it made the third largest bench, to reach 29 seats in 2018, only the ninth largest bench.

But even in this crisis scenario, the party remained a relevant force in the state of São Paulo. In addition to Doria’s victory, he won 172 mayors in the state in the 2020 elections, by far the party with the most elected. Second place went to the former DEM, now União Brasil, with 67 mayors. The PT elected only four mayors.

The state also represented a third of the 520 mayors won by toucans across the country in that election – a drop of 265 mayors compared to 2016.

“The PSDB inherited the way the MDB was organized in the state of São Paulo. The organizational structure of the PSDB originates from the PMDB and its main figures, Franco Montoro, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mário Covas, who were fundamental for the organization of this structure in the interior of São Paulo and the link with the municipalities of the state”, says Kerbauy . “The PSDB has very strong ties, and has acted in this close relationship with the municipalities, which have a strong influence on electoral dynamics.”

“PSDB governments have always paid close attention to the countryside. Perhaps less so for the capital, or the attention they paid to the capital, because of its diversity, its enormous inequality, they had difficulties in implementing more efficient public policies. In the case of the interior, I think they were much more efficient in implementing these public policies,” he says.

This historic connection with mayors in the interior is the trump card of Rodrigo Garcia, who also has the strongest party alliance among the candidates: in addition to the federation formed by PSDB and Cidadania, the candidate got support from União Brasil, MDB, Avante, Patriota, Podemos , PP and Solidarity.

The alliance guarantees him the most TV advertising time, which Garcia’s campaign has used to reinforce its roots in the interior of the state – the candidate is born in Tanabi, in the metropolitan region of São José do Rio Preto.

“Root from São Paulo” against the “outsider”

The strategy seeks a counterpoint with Tarcísio de Freitas, a carioca who moved to São Paulo just to contest the elections and even declared that the state “needs someone from outside” to solve its problems.

For Claudio Couto, a political scientist and professor at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, the strategy may even prove effective in increasing rejection of Freitas, but that does not necessarily mean that these voters will choose Garcia.

“He doesn’t convince voters to vote for him because he calls himself a ‘root from São Paulo’. There has to be something more. He asks: ‘look, what is your ability to produce a good government for me?’ And the problem, in relation to this issue, is that Rodrigo Garcia is automatically associated with João Doria, who left the government with a terrible evaluation”, he recalled, in an interview with TVT’s Jornal Brasil Atual.

In fact, Doria left the government at the end of March and a disapproval rate of 36% and approval of only 23%, a rate that experts consider prohibitive for rulers who want to seek re-election – or elect their successors.

After that, he saw his ambitions to run for the presidency overturned by his own party, even after winning internal primaries. The conflicts fostered by Doria during his meteoric rise led to the PSDB not having a candidate for the highest office in the country for the first time since redemocratization.

Now, he is a burden to his former deputy, a neophyte toucan who joined just to run for government. “Even if people evaluate a little better, as research shows, the Garcia government than the Doria government, it still carries this liability”, evaluates Couto.

Weakened, the governor finds himself “sandwiched” between the two competitors, in the view of the political scientist: he cannot get votes from the left, mostly with Haddad, nor from voters on the right of the ideological spectrum, who have been choosing Tarcísio. which indicates the recent Ipec poll, which shows the former minister growing to 17%, seven percentage points above the toucan.

“He stays there in a limbo, where he doesn’t like one side or the other”, summarizes Couto. “I even think he is a dangerous candidate from the electoral point of view in the second round, because he ends up occupying a certain center that, depending on who he runs with, can attract voters from the center to the other side, and then he becomes more competitive. . His problem is getting to the second round, and then really until now, even with the use of the machine, this long period of propaganda, the grand coalition, none of this has convinced the electorate.”

Tarcísio’s support for the right comes from his connection with Bolsonarism, a force that robbed the toucans of hegemony in this political field. With his management at the head of the Ministry of Infrastructure well evaluated by businessmen, the candidate has tried to show himself as a moderate option – therefore, vying for votes more in the center – without losing the support of the far right.

The operation gains a complicating factor in the image of an “outsider” of Freitas, who even had his change of electoral domicile questioned in court. The vision is of someone who doesn’t know São Paulo – and especially the interior of the state.

Teresa Kerbauy points out actions taken by Tarcísio’s campaign to defend this flank, based on the choice of his deputy, the former mayor of São José do Rio Preto Felício Ramuth (PSD), a city that was one of the first visited by the candidate.

programmatic difficulty

The political scientist bets on holding a second round with the presence of Fernando Haddad, but does not risk predicting who will be the PT’s opponent. “Haddad takes the lead because the capital has a greater weight and in the metropolitan region, São Bernardo, Diadema, those cities that were once PT members and still have a very large PT electorate”, she evaluates.

However, he needs to work to overcome resistance to his candidacy within the state. Haddad’s campaign seems to have realized this, betting on proposals such as rail integration between the capital and large cities such as Campinas, Santos, Sorocaba and São José dos Campos, an old demand in these places.

Another proposal dialogues directly with one of the reasons for Doria’s rejection: the increase in the contribution of retired civil servants to up to 16%, as a result of the state pension reform and an emergency decree by the then governor during the pandemic – which originally had a date to be revised, but it was maintained by both Doria and Rodrigo Garcia.

“The public servant in the state of São Paulo hates Doria because of that,” says Kerbauy. Haddad has treated the measure as a “confiscation” by the governor on the civil service and promised to negotiate with each category to recover the losses generated by the measure.

The PT himself even admitted problems faced in the past by the party in dialogue with the interior. “The PT had a programmatic difficulty in dialoguing with the entire state, precisely because it talked a lot with the big cities of São Paulo, already governed by the party. But I think there was a lack of a more comprehensive discourse on the state. I believe that we’ve got our hands on our government program and the arc of alliances that we’ve been able to sponsor for the past year and a half”, he said in an interview promoted by the newspapers. The globe, Value and the radio CBN.

This alliance includes as a preferred partner the PSB of former governor Marcio França, who decided to withdraw his candidacy for the government and run for the Senate. And, most importantly, Geraldo Alckmin, ex-governor for three times and great connoisseur of the interior of the state.

“Alckmin is essential for Haddad to win the interior of the state of São Paulo. And Haddad has to have a speech that reaches more people”, says Kerbauy.

Editing: Rodrigo Durao Coelho

The article is in Portuguese

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