The Brazilian Presidential election yesterday showed that the electorate continues to have a desire for social justice. The fact that the three main contenders were from the Workers Party, Social Democrats and the Greens speaks volumes in itself, showing the demand for addressing the very real problems that still exist after years of the Lula regime.
The Workers Party (PT) received 47%, the Social Democrats took 33% and the Greens (PV) 19%. Looking at the previous election results it's clear that the Green vote has predominantly come from the left and the Social Democrats rather than the PT itself whose vote has shifted by less than 2%. In 2006 the PT received 48.6%, the Social Democrats 41.6%, and the hard left P-Sol 6.9% (who stood but received less than 1% this time round).
Lula's successor for the PT is Dilma Rousseff is a former rebel who was tortured under the dictatorship. She is set to be Brazil's first female President and has a reputation as a hard minded left-winger - although has been criticised as a bureaucrat without Lula's 'common touch'. As a point of interest of the nine Presidential candidates only two were women who both came in the top three places.
The Greens' Marina Silva achieved a fantastic result gaining almost one in five of the votes. The high point was in the capital itself (called the Distrito Federal) where she gained 41% of the vote to the PT's 31% and the Social Democrat's 24%.
Silva is from a very humble background and she rose to become Lula's Minister of the Environment, quitting the government in 2006 over its poor performance on environmental issues. Although Silva's votes may lean towards the PT in the second round of voting they certainly cannot be taken for granted, despite Rousseff's large lead.
Indeed the Social Democrats had previously offered Silva the role of Vice President and they may well repeat this offer, or possibly offer the position to another high profile Green, Fernando Gabeira. Gabeira, a founding member of the Brazilian Greens, stood for governor of Rio de Janeiro coming second with 21% of the vote.
Radical socialist and former Presidential candidate Heloisa Helena (PSOL) got 16.6% in her senatorial race in Alagoas. PSOL also recieved 14.3% in the governor race in the capital (where the Greens won the Presidential vote).
It seems to me that the vote demonstrates that a great many Brazilians still have sympathy with the aims of the Workers Party but are willing to break towards a more radical alternative where it seems credible. Both Heloisa Helena and Marina Silva were high profile PT members who became left critics. They have carried a substantial personal vote with them that does not necessarily automatically transfer to their parties, which remain minor players in Brazilian politics for the moment.
Where the PT is criticised from the right it is generally from a position of more moderate leftism rather than neo-liberalism although Lula, it should be said, has not been as consistently of the left as many would have hoped. Whether left critics of the government can keep up the pressure and/or build a more viable alternative to the PT remains to be seen.
Certainly on these results it shows that the Greens and the left have an opening, with a new President, to become a major electoral force in Brazil if they can only ensure they become a real force on the ground as well as fielding high profile, well respected critics of the government.