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Northeast Elections: It's Coronelismo, Stupid!


When it comes to the Northeast, today’s right looks like the communists of old. Once, a middle-aged philosophy professor told me how upset it was to vote for Bahia’s polls in his youth: everything was going very well in the capital, with the MDB at the front, until the polls started to arrive from the interior. Everything ARENA. For people from the northeast of the capital, “the interior” sounds more or less like “the Northeast”: it is there that you can ruin everything, because of the ignorant people.

At least the northeastern coast had on the tip of the tongue the reason for the discrepancy between the vote of the interior and that of the capital: the colonels. It’s only now that the local left has decided that being a drunk country peasant gives a lot of social conscience. And what’s worse: the urban right of the Southeast believed. It’s as if a shaved foot from the interior had an ideology, and didn’t vote for who the colonel is in charge. Opening social networks today was a tremendous shame for others.

I will leave aside the other states where there are interesting things happening – such as the fall of the Ferreira Gomes clan in Ceará, the fight between cousins ​​in Pernambuco and the Bolsonarista candidacy contested in Sergipe – and focus on my state, which happens to be the most populous in the Northeast. )

As I have already explained in detail here, Bahia is a government party. During the military regime, Bahia voted for ARENA. It is so governmental, but so governmental, that it has no equivalent of Arraes; here, the dispute for state power took place between the arenista ACM and the arenista Roberto Santos, dean of UFBA, both trained doctors.

ACM, married to the daughter of a cocoa colonel, ended up winning the dispute. Thus was born Carlism. In the New Republic, Carlism flourished based on a triad: the capillary alliance with the colonels inland, a new school of propaganda and public works. All Bahia state elections in the Nova República were decided in the first round, except for 1994, when the first successor to ACM made almost 50% in the first round. In 2002, the year of Lula’s election, the Carlist candidate won in the first round, defeating Jaques Wagner. Leftism was an urban affectation; the grotões were carlists.

However, the agreement between contractors and marketing, from 2002, was imitated on a national level. Marketing Bahia and Bahia contractors set the tone of the national scene. Thus, in 2006, for the first time, the PT won the election for the governorship in Bahia. And not only did he win, he also won in the first round. That could only mean one thing: something had changed in the colonels’ network. In fact, traditional names from Carlism migrated to the PT’s allied base. The most famous of them is Otto Alencar (PSD), who was once the Carlist governor of Bahia in the year of 2002, completing the term of the Carlist César Borges. Since then, Bahia was divided between the PT interior and the Carlist urban centers (Salvador and Feira de Santana).

Uncertain forces in 2022

If everything went as planned by the research institutes, Otto Alencar would probably have run for the state government. He was quoted to be Rui Costa’s successor, but he refused and preferred to run for re-election in the Senate on the PT ticket. Rui Costa’s deputy governor, João Leão, was going to run for the Senate as an ally of ACM Neto, but he gave up and put his son Cacá in his place. In my view, this movement was due to the uncertainty of the national scenario. If Lula were right, Otto would be governor and João Leão (the chief of the local PP) would continue on the basis of petismo. ACM Neto is the appropriate name for a scenario of uncertainties. The PT put an illustrious stranger to run – the guy Jerônimo – and that’s why the candidate has nothing to lose.

In fact, for the first time PT is going to the second round in a state election in Bahia. The illustrious stranger was left with almost 50%; then came ACM Neto, just over 40%, and finally, among the significant candidates, came João Roma, with almost 10% of votes. Otto had 40% of the votes. He’s just not governor because he doesn’t want to. João Roma is another former Carlist colonel, but of a younger generation. He broke with ACM Neto and joined Bolsonaro. So, in a rough calculation, it gives 50% for the PT (pulled by Otto), 40 % for ACM and % for Bolsonaro. He is divided and unpredictable. It remains certain, however, that coronelismo is doing well, thank you. The most voted federal deputy was Otto Filho, son of Otto Alencar. The son of Angelo Coronel (a colonel allied with Otto, also a former Carlist) and the wife of João Roma were elected with good votes.

Urban centers

In Bahia, Salvador and Feira de Santana usually vote against rural Bahia. Still, Lula won in both municipalities. The opposition of the urban centers to the rural interior remained only at the state level: in both municipalities, ACM Neto would win in the first round. It remains to be concluded that the urban centers voted for Lula and ACM, as in 2002. 1994 it was also a year of uncertainties, and Bahia knew how to place Carlism as a mattress between the old tucan order (which did not care about the Northeast) and the rising petismo ( with its hunger for power looking towards the Northeast).

I went to vote in a section that concentrates the old elite of the city. Voters’ cars had plots of politicians in the background. None of Lula, none of Bolsonaro. The plots featured ACM, by João Leão and Otto Alencar.

This can only mean one thing: Bolsonaro is not doing politics properly in the Northeast. The Northeast is like the Center. Nobody thinks he’s handsome, but every major politician has to make do with him. It’s no use playing the incorruptible, the clean, and losing the elections later. What the colonels always ask for is a work to call their own before the electorate. With works, the regions gain infrastructure and temporary jobs, and the colonel, being considered the “puller” of investments, wins votes. There is no ideology in this and voters don’t care what the newspapers say.

It could be worse for Bolsonaro

The Northeast doesn’t care about public opinion. At the time of the dictatorship, this was good. The communists could freely kick in the press that the Northeast didn’t care. In the New Republic, the toucan press kicked against Lula, and the Northeast didn’t care. He was right, since FHC left, perhaps, the majority of the population of the Northeast without electricity, a situation that would change only with Lula’s Luz para Todos. Now, under Bolsonaro, the press is always saying that Bolsonaro is the devil. It is obvious that the Northeast did not start listening to beautiful people overnight. The problem is political arrangement.

It could be worse. The capital of São Paulo had a Lulista majority, and its most voted federal deputy was Boulos. What are the chances of reversing the votes of the affected urban voter, who chooses PSOL sub-intellectuals? On the other hand, an agreement with colonels has the potential to change the course of the election silently – just as the sudden change in Bahia was silent in 2006.

ACM Neto will have to look for former allies to guarantee victory against the illustrious PT stranger – either with Rome or with the current local PT allies. Otto Alencar has the knife and the cheese in his hand. He can overthrow the PT at the state level and, why not, at the federal level. In this scenario, the split between the Bahian colonels started in PT would be over.

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