by Patricia Zanini-Graca
The Brazilian presidential election of 2018 will have the largest number of candidates since the 1989 cycle which was meant to re-democratize the country. Up until 1989, Brazil was under military rule. In 1989 there were 22 candidates and now in 2018, there are 13. Of the 13 there are several whose names have been cited in allegations of corruption and internal party disputes. Now, the problem in Brazil is not its lack of democracy or a legal framework to enforce fair elections itself, but its corruption.
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) has been barred by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE)* and is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering. Fernando Haddad, his deputy, was charged by the São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office for passive corruption, money laundering, and gang formation on suspicion of requesting $2.6 million from construction contractor UTC Engenharia to pay campaign debts.
Another candidate, Geraldo Alckmin (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, PSDB), has been accused of receiving R$10 million in undeclared sums in the 2010 and 2014 election cycles. In addition, Alckmin is connected to several other party colleagues who are also under investigation for corruption.
Candidate Ciro Gomes (Partido Democratico Trabalhista, PDT) has been accused of corruption since 2010. His family business, Ferreira Gomes, forced donations from companies so that these companies would receive their government benefits from the State of Ceara. The illegally solicited payments were used to finance campaigns of candidates supported by Gomes’ family in the 2010 and 2014 election cycles.
Candidate Álvaro Dias (Partido Trabalhista Nacional – Podemos, PTN) was reported to have used resources from his office to pay for flights to Montevideo and Buenos Aires for his relatives in 2009. This practice became known as “Pass Flights,” which other parliamentarians also wrongly used. Additionally, Dias was found to have accepted R$ 5 million in bribes from prominent Brazilian businessman, Joao Cachoeira.
Another candidate connected with corruption is Marina Silva (Rede Sustentabilidade). Although Silva has the “Clean Tab” indicating that she has avoided corrupt campaign strategies and practices, her husband, Fabio Vaz de Lima, was accused of diverting more than R$ 44.1 million from a project to produce automotive components in conjunction with the Superintendency of Development for the Amazon. The Clean Tab policy was created in 2010 with the aim of barring corrupt candidates from pleading new political ambitions and clearly fighting corruption is the great backdrop to the election.
The only two candidates that are not present in corruption scams and accusations are Jair Bolsonaro and Joao Amoedo. The candidate Jair Bolsonaro (Partido Social Liberal – PSL) has never been accused of corruption in his 27 years as a politician, unlike most other candidates. However, he was accused of racism and the Attorney General requested that Bolsonaro pay R$ 400,000 for collective moral damages for an alleged accusation. At the beginning of September, Bolsonaro was campaigning in the streets when he was stabbed by militants from another party in his liver, right lung, and intestines. Since then, Bolsonaro has been forced to stop his campaign. At the same night of Bolsonaro’s attempted murder, President Michel Temer addressed the nation explaining, “It is intolerable that, living in a democratic state of law, it is not possible to have an orderly campaign.” Bolsonaro is a divisive figure in Brazil, being adored by many, especially younger generations with 60% of his supporters between the ages of 16 to 34 years old. The other candidate Joao Amoedo (Partido Novo) comes from a new party and is a freshman in politics. Amoedo has never been accused of corruption or racism but his main struggle is simply to become known. Since his party was created after the 2014 elections, there are no Novo congressmen yet. Therefore, Amoedo dies not have the right to participate in debates, making it more difficult for the public to know his party’s electoral platform.
We are in the final stretch of the electoral campaigns in Brazil with the first round of votes being held on October 7. The nonprofit Transparency International, in partnership with other entities, is charged to oversee the elections process, to halt corruption, and to encourage transparency during the elections and has gathered around 200 experts to format a package of 70 anti-corruption measures. “The world’s largest anti-corruption package” was launched in June this year. The new legislation deepens, broadens, and critically reviews the discussion launched by the Ten Measures Against Corruption, sponsored by the Federal Public Ministry. Unfortunately, the world’s largest anti-corruption package cannot guarantee a corruption-free election. By September 19, more than 140 candidates had their candidacies rejected by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal based on the law of the Clean Tab. However, they resisted the decision of the court, and through appeals many of the candidates that were labeled “Dirty Tab” continue to participate in the 2018 elections. What must change in Brazil is the acceptance of a corrupting attitude which allows candidates to circumvent the laws, pay bribes, or threaten public officials. Unfortunately, in a country grappling with corruption like Brazil, politics cannot be a profession, but must be voluntary work in such a way that only those who aim for the common good and for the good people who work to make Brazil a better country can participate. Brazil’s problem is not in the absence of a legal framework or policies which encourage transparency. What is lacking is a proactive debate on corruption that examines and attacks the root of the problem.
*Note: The TSE is Brazil’s highest court which handles exclusively election cases.
This opinion piece was written by Executive Editor Patricia Zanini Graca. Patricia is a second-year graduate student at Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Patricia graduated in Business Administration and she holds an MBA in Business and Marketing. Patricia is the Executive Editor at the Journal of Diplomacy, a UN Digital Representative at the Center for UN and Global Governance Studies, an Abd El-Kader Fellow and the Director of International Affairs at the Graduate Diplomacy Council. She specializes in International Organizations and Global Negotiations & Conflict Management.