The Legal Amazon electorate represents only 12.3% of the votes in Brazil, but it has a decision of great impact: it chooses who will manage at the state and municipal levels more than half of the country’s territory, where the largest tropical forest in the world is concentrated.
The region comprises nine states —Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins—, with 59% (more than 5 million km²) of the total area of Brazil.
Historically, the region votes more for the PT in presidential elections. In 2018, according to data from the TSE (Superior Electoral Court), 51.3% of Amazonians chose Fernando Haddad, from the PT, against 48.7% Jair Bolsonaro, at the time of the PSL. Overall in the country, Bolsonaro won with 55.1%, while Haddad reached 44.9%.
This was also the result of the 2014 and 2010 elections, with a majority in the Amazon in favor of Dilma Rousseff (PT), and, in 2006 and 2002, of Lula (PT).
There is, however, a movement to the right, observes political scientist Alberto Carlos Almeida, author of the book “O Voto do Brasileiro” (Record). The majority of the population of Manaus, the city with the largest number of voters in the region, for example, switched sides in the 2018 election and voted for Bolsonaro.
This change is also highlighted by Ivan Henrique de Mattos e Silva, professor of political science at Unifap (Federal University of Amapá) and vice-general coordinator of Legal (Laboratory of Geopolitical Studies of the Legal Amazon).
“From 2002 onwards, especially from 2010 onwards, we also verified [nos trabalhos de pesquisa do grupo] a conservative trajectory of the vote. This for all spheres, in all lawsuits. There was a very pronounced trend towards the right, in a region that always tended to vote with the left”, he says.
For greater conservation of the Amazon rainforest, the vote of those who live in the region is relevant in all spheres, beyond the polarization around the presidential race. This is because legislation and the implementation of measures for the care of the biome are not only the responsibility of the Union — there is also essential participation of states and municipalities, in addition to the role of congressmen representing the units of the federation.
An example that illustrates the point well is the recent assessment by Lula’s allies about a possible release of the Amazon Fund — created in 2018, it financed socio-environmental projects of civil society and public organizations.
With the extinction of two governance bodies of the fund by Bolsonaro’s management, the steering committee and the technical committee, the values were frozen. In December 2021, R$ 3.2 billion were idle, according to a report by the Comptroller General of the Union.
In the event of Lula’s victory and a possible release of the fund, the efficiency of pro-environment actions will also depend on the commitment of governors and mayors who manage projects with these resources.
“Part of the administrative competence in environmental matters, which is the responsibility of the Executive, is at the state level. There are some themes, such as the Forest Code. Mostly, it is applied by the states and, more than that, it is regulated by the states”, he explains. Mauricio Guetta, legal advisor at ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) and professor of environmental law.
Another important point for the next elected is the goal of zeroing illegal deforestation by 2028, announced at the last United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP26, by the Minister of the Environment, Joaquim Leite.
For the reduction of the deforestation rate, as occurred between the years of 2008 and 2012 of the PT administration, when the index fell from 12.9 thousand km² to the lowest of the series, of 4,500 km², experts heard by the Sheet point out as a priority measure the strengthening of inspection in the field, mainly by IBAMA.
Guetta explains that, despite IBAMA being a federal agency, future governors also have a part to play.
“The assessments, the infraction notices of the states, should be informed in real time to be included in Sinaflor [Sistema Nacional de Controle da Origem dos Produtos Florestais] and so we would have a faithful monitoring of how public environmental management is doing, including the states, not just Ibama. A lot of them are a black box because they don’t go up the data,” he explains.
There is also the need for effective implementation of the CAR (Rural Environmental Registry), a self-declaration tool created by the federal government in 2012. In it, the alleged landowner informs that he owns a certain area. Afterwards, confirmation is in charge of the government.
The result: more than 29 million hectares were registered in the CAR, overlapping protected areas, such as indigenous lands and conservation units. The data is contained in a study that was released in May this year by researchers Cristina Leme Lopes and Joana Chiavari, from the Climate Policy Initiative at PUC-Rio.
“We know that we already have a good part of the properties registered, but less than 2% of them are validated. So, there is an abyss between what the law says and its implementation. As this implementation is mostly up to the states, with some exceptions, the decision [do eleitor da Amazônia] from now can also have an impact on that”, evaluates Guetta.
But, after all, what is the profile of those who live and vote in the Legal Amazon?
It is a slightly more female electorate (52.7%) than that of Brazil as a whole (51.1%). In addition, it has a higher proportion of people aged between 18 and 35 (37.8%) and is more rural (27.6%), compared to the general scenario in the country (32.5% and 15.6%, respectively).
Despite the greater connection with the rural environment, when investigating the specific concern with the environmental cause in the population of the Amazon, a work by the Laboratory of Geopolitical Studies of the Legal Amazon identified an important point: the electorate does not spontaneously mention the environmental agenda as a motivator for the choice of the vote.
“When people are asked about their main concerns and what motivates them to vote, in no state does the environmental issue appear,” says Mattos e Silva.
“However, when provoked to talk about the subject, this appears in a consensual way, which is in fact a problem, but always linked to a more concrete point. For example, as the fires, which generate more respiratory problems, it becomes more difficult differentiate the seasons, etc. But, even so, it is not a motivating aspect”, he adds.
In the survey, carried out with the support of the Serrapilheira Institute and the ICS (Instituto Clima e Sociedade), the main problems facing Brazil in the view of the Amazon electorate were spontaneously mentioned. By the number of mentions, they won, in order: economy, health, infrastructure (sanitation, asphalt and transport), education, security.
The qualitative research was carried out with nine online focus groups, with an average of eight participants each, composed of men and women, from May 23 to 30, 2022.
The Planeta em Transe project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.