Opinion – Michael França: When it comes to electing women and blacks, the left remembers the right


In the most recent election for the Chamber of Deputies, the percentage of black candidates who managed to be elected by the right-wing parties was 9.3%. On the left, that number was just 3.7%. In this context, part of the explanation for the success rate of the right in electing blacks being more than double that observed by the left comes from the difference in the number of candidates launched by one side and the other.

The left has fielded more black candidates than the right in the last two most recent general elections. In 2018, it had 1,088 candidates for federal deputy and elected only 40. The right elected 69 of the 747 black candidates.

In the 2014 elections, the number of candidates launched by both political camps was lower, but the success rate of each was not very different from that observed in 2018.

These and other results are part of a broad study that I conducted jointly with researchers Sergio Firpo, Alysson Portella and Rafael Tavares, associated with Insper’s Center for Racial Studies. The report “Racial Inequality in Brazilian Elections” was published by this Sheet and other vehicles, and brings interesting contributions to the debate around the lack of representation in politics.

There is considerable progress on the left in terms of the supply of black candidates. The percentage of candidates for the Chamber of Deputies in each region of the country is close to reflecting the local population.

This makes the racial imbalance of candidates on the left smaller than that of the right. However, when it comes to offering real chances to blacks and women, the left is not very different from the right.

When we look at the racial and gender imbalance of deputies elected in 2018, we realize that the performance of the left was equivalent to that of the right.

That same year, the racial imbalance of the deputies elected by the PT was close to that of the PSDB. The great positive highlight was the PSOL, a party that achieved racial balance in its ranks of state deputies. On the negative side, the white dominance of NOVO stands out. The party was the only one on the right that did not elect any black deputy.

With this, the results of the study reinforce the idea that, regardless of the ideological position, Brazilian political parties tend to be just a reflection of social, racial and gender inequality present in society. Looking at the distribution of campaign resources helps to illustrate a bit the uneven behind-the-scenes mechanism of the political game.

About 80% of the candidates for deputy received less than 20% of the total resources. In practice, this means that a very small group will have the financial conditions to mount a campaign that generates visibility and, consequently, have concrete possibilities of being elected.

With the cut of race and gender, we realize which group represents the big bet of political parties. In 2018, while black women received, on average, R$83,000, white men received R$265,000.

Brazilian inequality and the rules of the game contribute to this. High-income white men tend to occupy spaces that generate visibility and contacts. When they enter politics, they are often seen as more competitive. Since one of the parties’ goals is to elect the largest number of candidates, they tend to bet on the dominant group.

Thus, although women, blacks and individuals with disadvantaged backgrounds are more involved in politics, many of them are unknown to voters and do not have the necessary conditions to have greater visibility. So, in the end, we have a curious democracy in Brazil, in which a small part of society always ends up having much more voice than it should.

The text is a tribute to the song “Politics Voice”, by Roberto Frejat and Jorge Dias Salomão, performed by Barão Vermelho.

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