Brazil's Upcoming Contentious Runoff Elections

Brazil's runoff elections have piqued the interest of on-lookers in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte in the past week. Both cities are hubs for business and travel in Brazil, with major extractive industries and tech sector companies based there, as well as being the second and fourth richest (GDP) cities in Brazil, respectively. 

In Rio, the media is closely following runoff elections, since a number of accusations against the front runner Senator Marcelo Crivella have arisen. Crivella's mug shot was on the cover of Veja in Rio, which trumped the arrest of former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, whose picture was the from of Veja in the rest of the country. The leaks implicate Crivellla in the Lava Jato investigation, as he allegedly used Petrobras money to illegally finance previous campaigns. The leaks are certainly part of opposition research done by the PMDB, as it anticipated a runoff against Crivella before being defeated by state legislator Marcelo Freixo (PSOL).

It is certainly in the interest of Rio's PMDB for Freixo to win city hall. The state legislator is the PMDB's fiercest opponent and a constant thorn in the side of the party's control of Rio de Janeiro state and city. A Freixo victory would allow PMDB --who will control the city legislature with 15 seats and a broad parliamentary coalition covering most of the 51 seats (PSOL only won 6 seats)-- to sabotage the Mayor and point to itself as the best alternative to govern the former Brazilian Capital and resume its control over city and state.

Meanwhile, the race in Belo Horizonte has wavered radically. With a campaign reliant on social media and his personal charisma based on bluntness, Alexandre Kalil (PHS) reversed polls and is now ahead of PSDB candidate João Leite 41 to 35 percent. Neither candidate represents starkly different projects for the city, nor are they radically opposite on the ideological spectrum.

However, the defeat of João Leite has direct implications for national elections. His godfather, Aécio Neves, finally allowed him to run for mayor after nearly 10 years denying him the opportunity due to political agreements with PSB and PT. Leite's defeat is a direct defeat of Neves, and will weaken him in an internal power struggle to decide who will be PSDB's presidential candidate in 2018. Neves has failed to deliver the state of Minas Gerais to PSDB in presidential elections since 2002. The state was crucial for Dilma's victory in 2014. If Aécio cannot secure the mayorship of Belo Horizonte for his candidate, then he will be hard pressed to argue he can still deliver Minas, and win the presidency in what promises to be an embattled dispute in 2018.

The run-off vote in Brazil is held on the last Sunday of October -- 30 October 2016.