Communication with voters in the Northeast was assessed by right-wing politicians as fundamental for progress in the region. Being an electoral stronghold of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), allies of former president Jair Bolsonaro (PL) understand that part of the strategy to gain ground is to defend the former president’s legacy, such as works and resources contributed.
Planning to elect a thousand mayors next year, the PL seeks to launch former members of the Bolsonaro administration in the dispute for the municipal Executive to remember the achievements of important portfolios. The former Minister of Citizenship João Roma, the former Minister of Tourism Gilson Machado and the former Minister of Health Marcelo Queiroga have already been appointed by the party led by Valdemar Costa Neto as pre-candidates in Salvador, Recife and João Pessoa, respectively. Currently, the acronym has 343 mayors.
Bolsonaro’s ineligibility, determined by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) in June this year, led the party to invest in the figure of Michelle Bolsonaro as an alternative to attract new affiliations across the country, with emphasis on the North and Northeast. This year alone, she has already visited Rondônia, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Ceará and Pará. In these last two states, she was accompanied by Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro’s legacy needs to be defended by allies
As a strategy to leverage the right in the region, Marcelo Queiroga highlights that the Transposition of the São Francisco River needs to be remembered by the northeastern right in the next campaigns. In February 2022, the work was completed by the former president after 14 years of progress and interruptions.
“The transposition of the São Francisco River, an important project for the region, was carried out during the Bolsonaro government. Therefore, it is crucial to strengthen communication and highlight achievements. To this end, the president appointed several northeastern ministers, such as Ciro Nogueira, from Piauí, Rogério Marinho, now a senator and leader of the PL in the Senate, Gilson Machado, from Paraíba, and João Roma, all under the strong leadership of the [ex-]President Bolsonaro,” said the former minister.
Following the same line as Queiroga, Gilson Machado highlighted the numbers of social programs presented by the previous government, such as Bolsa Família, which in the previous administration was called Auxílio Brasil. For the former Minister of Tourism, it is necessary to compare the economic situation of the PT government with the previous government.
“It is important to highlight our legacy. Previously, we had 23 ministries, but now we have 39, which implies more expenses for citizens. Additionally, the unemployment rate is a concern. We observed that almost 2.5 million people left the Bolsa Família program under the previous government. We will use radio and television time to make people miss the [ex-]President Bolsonaro and our team of ministers”, said Machado.
On the other hand, he admitted that the Bolsonaro administration failed to efficiently communicate the government’s achievements in the Northeast region.
“We made significant mistakes, mistakes from which we learned a lot and which we will not repeat in a possible next government. One of these mistakes was not having strategic positions in the hands of allies from the Northeast, instead, these allies were supporting Lula and the opposition”, added the former minister.
The right needs to focus on the difficulties of the Northeast
Representing 13.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Brazilian Institute of Economics of Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV IBRE), the Northeast region presents challenging data that need to be discussed by right-wing candidates. An example is the survey carried out by the German company Statista on the 50 most dangerous cities in the world: of the ten Brazilian municipalities present, nine are in the Northeast. Second
The cities mentioned are Mossoró (RN, 11th place); Salvador (BA, 19th); Feira de Santana (BA, 22nd); Vitória da Conquista (BA, 26th); Natal (RN, 28th); Fortaleza (CE, 31st): Recife (PE, 35th); Maceió (AL, 36th); and Teresina (PI – 40th). The only one of the ten Brazilian municipalities mentioned that is not part of the Northeast is Manaus (AM), in the North region, which occupies 21st position in the survey.
For federal deputy Rodrigo Valadares (União-SE), the right has made great progress in the region since 2018. Of the 99 seats occupied by the PL in the 2022 elections, 23 are from the Northeast. However, he recognized that candidates need to talk more with local voters to understand municipal difficulties.
“With the exception of Piauí, all states elected at least one federal deputy identified with Bolsonaro and elected with the votes of this base. But we still have a lot to improve, especially in terms of communication, talking to voters and the way of doing politics in the region, where state and municipal governments still have their weight. Culturally, the figure of Lula and PTism is strong in the Northeast, although it has been declining, mainly with the electoral fraud committed by his administration”, said the deputy.
In João Roma’s assessment, it is necessary to discuss local needs with the population so that there is greater understanding between what the voter wants and the discourse that the party, in this case the PL, needs to adopt.
“The PL will have around 20% of radio and TV time in the next election. We have to highlight and translate our public policy proposals for these voters. For example: we are supporters of reducing taxes. It needs to be clear that the PT’s policy is to increase taxes and ours is to reduce them. This is a challenge in our communication. Citizens are not satisfied with paying so much tax”, said the former minister.
Communication from the right needs to be clear
Political scientist Elton Gomes, professor at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI), explains that political communication, as in other areas, depends on clarity between the public and the politician. It also asks that the candidate, or politician, be aligned with the needs of the public.
“Political communication depends on three major elements. It depends on image building, on what you want to promote in the free market of ideas. It depends on segmentation, that is, who you want to direct your message to, and within that audience, who you want to direct your message to, you need to identify the elements of race, gender and income. And once that is done, you need to have a third, very important element, which is the production of a clear and efficient message”, said the professor.
Commenting on the right-wing strategy for the Northeast, Gomes assessed that agents from this political spectrum have not yet managed, so far, to align a solid discourse that will bring greater electoral gains for 2024.
“It seems that, especially after Bolsonaro was made ineligible, the right still does not have a discourse that can effectively achieve these three levels that enable good political communication. It does not have a clear message in tune with the desires of the population of this region (Northeast)”, he added.
He pointed out that the right needs to have greater clarity in its own definition for the electorate.
“What is the right? Is the right the PL? I wouldn’t say. Is the right a unified, anti-Lulista front? That doesn’t exist either. Is there anything today that is identifiable as right-wing in Brazil and that can be sold in the market for political ideas in this way? This is a big question”, he highlighted.