How Will Campos’ Death Affect Brazil’s Presidential Race?

José Cruz / Agência Brasil / CC BY 3.0 BR

Q: Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos was killed when his private jet crashed Wednesday as it prepared to land in the city of Santos. Campos' death sent shockwaves through the country's political world and rattled financial markets just two months ahead of Brazil's October presidential election. What effects will Campos' sudden death have on the race, including any potential runoff?

A: Peter Hakim, member of the Advisor board and president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue: "On the presumption that Marina Silva replaces Eduardo Campos as the PSB nominee for president, the prospects for a runoff, which were about 50-50, will increase by some margin--simply because Marina is likely to receive more votes than Campos would have, probably more than doubling his vote count. Even if most of the PSB's new votes come from the PSDB's Aécio Neves, Dilma's vote total will also decrease, making it harder for her to reach 50 percent (even as the gap between Dilma and Aécio grows larger). Surveys suggest that Dilma will easily make it to the second round, where she will have a modest advantage over Aécio or Marina. She is the incumbent, and they rarely lose in Latin America. And she will have the support of Lula (who remains the most popular Brazilian politician ever) and a mobilized Workers' Party, which certainly doesn't want to give up the presidency. With the backing of a party long experienced in presidential elections and considerable voting strength in Brazil's population centers, Aécio is likely to be Dilma's second round opponent. Yet, it would be a mistake to discount Marina's chances. She still seems more of a protest candidate, as she was four years ago when she took nearly 20 percent of the first round vote. But, with Dilma's popularity at a low point, the economy increasingly troubled and a sour mood gripping the country, a protest candidate may be just what the Brazilian electorate is looking for. Still, the best guess is that Dilma will be president for the next four years, after beating Aécio in the second round--but I have been wrong before."

A: Joel Korn, president of WKI Brasil: "The tragic death of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos has shocked the country and brought a great deal of uncertainty for the outcome of the election. Assuming that running mate Marina Silva will indeed be nominated by the PSB and its coalition, President Rousseff will be facing a fiercer competition from the opposition candidates. The likelihood of a second round is higher, and we may witness significant changes in the polls, as the official media campaign starts broadcasting. As a second-time presidential candidate, Marina is well known, and her candidacy should leverage on the approximately 20 percent of the votes captured in the 2010 election. In addition, she may benefit from the overall sentiment of the tragic loss of Eduardo Campos and capture an important share of the high number of undecided voters who are eagerly looking for changes and are sympathetic to higher political standards and values. In summary, the extremely sad and tragic accident that took the life of Eduardo Campos prompted the destiny of Marina Silva as a presidential candidate again, leaving the political process involving President Rousseff's succession wide open at this juncture."

A: David Fleischer, publisher Brazil Focus and professor at the University of Brasília: "The tragic death of the PSB presidential candidate Eduardo Campos has provoked a massive game change in the campaign. All indications are that the PSB will elevate its vice presidential candidate, Marina Silva, to be the presidential candidate because the party has no other political alternative. Marina became a domestic and international icon after serving as former President Lula's environment minister and as the Green Party's presidential candidate in 2010 when she received 20 million votes. She has a much higher name recognition level than did Campos and should make the 'third way' more viable this year. She will quickly inject questions of environmental protection and sustainability into the campaign and oblige PSDB candidate Aécio Neves to do the same because he wants her support in a runoff election versus President Dilma Rousseff. In the next election polls, Marina should surpass the level of support achieved by Campos and perhaps even challenge Neves for second place. However, Marina provokes both strong positive and negative reactions, and it remains to be seen whether she will adopt a more moderate campaign posture (as Campos had been coaching her) or a more aggressive radical style in order to challenge the PT-PSDB polarization. Also, the campaign will now have two Evangelical/Pentecostal candidates--Silva and Pastor Everaldo (PSC)--both are from the same Assembly of God denomination."

A: Riordan Roett, director of the Latin American Studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies: "The untimely and tragic death of Eduardo Campos could be a game changer. If Marina Silva, the vice presidential candidate on the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) ticket is nominated to replace him, she will be a popular candidate. When Silva last ran for president, she received almost 20 percent of the vote. She will have support in the north and northeast areas of the country that are nominally supportive of the Workers' Party (PT) and former President Lula. In large part, that electoral support comes from the conditional cash transfer program, Bolsa Família. But Silva may test that loyalty. She is from the region; She stands for many of the issues that the region cares about, such as education, health and security. She is from a poor background and worked her way through school and successfully entered politics. Many people in the north and northeast can identify with her rather than the more bourgeois President Dilma. Aécio Neves, the Social Democratic (PSDB) candidate, will be challenged in the weeks ahead. Can Silva outpace Neves and compete against President Dilma in a second round if the president fails to win in the first round? Or will Neves and Silva split the opposition vote and guarantee Dilma a first-round victory? Or will Silva decide to endorse Neves and not run herself? While it too early to tell how, the campaign dynamics have changed dramatically. The next set of national polls should provide an indication, if Silva is the PSB candidate, of whether her voter appeal, demonstrated in the past, will rally the troops in 2014."

A: Gilberto M.A. Rodrigues, professor at the Universidade Federal do ABC in São Paulo and board member of the Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Economicas y Sociales in Buenos Aires: "The death of Eduardo Campos is a tragedy that may change the results of the election. Despite opinion polls always putting him in third place, his potential to rise in the coming weeks was recognized even by his adversaries. Nevertheless, the 'third way' he represented could hold if Marina Silva, the PSB candidate for vice president, is chosen to replace him. In fact, Brazil's electoral system establishes that in such cases of vacancy, the party and its partners can replace the former candidate within 10 days of the death. Silva's chances could be even better than Campos', among other reasons because she is very well known in Brazil and has a low rejection rate from potential voters. In fact, more than a year ago, Silva was the only pre-candidate that could beat President Rousseff, according to some polls. Last year, Silva tried to create a new party but failed due to a Superior Electoral Court decision--the same court that will have to recognize her nomination if the PSB decides to confirm her as head of the coalition. For the coming days, uncertainty will be the hallmark of the presidential campaign. However, it is also true that if Silva runs for president, the 'third way' will stay alive and could gain sufficient votes to put her in the second round."

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