In the same week that former president Jair Bolsonaro was the target of operations by the Federal Police (PF), president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) made several nods to three important opposition governors: Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas (Republicans ), from Sao Paulo; Cláudio Castro (PL), from Rio de Janeiro; and Romeu Zema (Novo), from Minas Gerais.
With the municipal elections approaching, the PT member has focused his agenda in recent days on visiting Bolsonaro’s electoral strongholds and promising that the federal government will support these states with federal resources.
“The role of the President of the Republic is not to be concerned about which party the governor belongs to, but concerned about the people of the state that elected that governor,” said Lula during a ceremony for the New Growth Acceleration Program (PAC), on Thursday. (8), in Minas Gerais.
“I’ve been with many governors of Minas Gerais. The last one was my companion Aécio [Neves, do PSDB], who ruled this state for eight years. Then it came [Fernando] Pimentel [do PT]. We don’t differentiate between anyone. What we want is for the works to be the result of the cities’ needs,” he added.
At the event, the Chief Executive announced R$121.4 billion for Minas Gerais. There are R$36.7 billion exclusive to the state and R$84.8 billion in works and regional actions that include Minas Gerais and other units of the federation.
The closeness with Zema may be related to the situation of the PT in Minas Gerais. Of the 853 city halls, the president’s party has 29 municipal managers. On the other hand, PL has 39 city halls. With victory over Bolsonaro in 2022, winning new city halls also means expanding Lula’s electoral advantage in 2026.
For political scientist Juan Carlos Arruda, CEO of Ranking of Politicians, the PT suffers from the pressure of not commanding any capital.
“As 2024 progresses, municipal elections emerge, and the outlook for the Workers’ Party (PT) is challenging. Currently, the party does not hold any city halls in Brazilian capitals, and an analysis of the electoral landscape reveals a lack of viable candidates in these metropolitan areas.”
He added: “Lula remains an emblematic figure for a significant portion of the Brazilian population, as does Bolsonaro. Faced with an adverse electoral scenario, it is understandable that he prioritizes the domestic agenda and travels across Brazil in an attempt to boost the electoral performance of their allies.”
Lula also posed for photos with Tarcísio and Castro
When inaugurating 832 apartments from the “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” program in Magé (RJ), on Tuesday (6), the head of the Executive also used the speech about the institutional role of his government to get closer to the governor of Rio de Janeiro , Cláudio Castro.
“We are going to invest again in Rio de Janeiro because this state was not born to be dominated by organized crime, because the majority of Rio de Janeiro people are good people. That’s why I’m happy to be here”, said the PT member. In addition to Magé, he also visited Belford Roxo – another Bolsonaro stronghold – and had lunch with Mayor Waguinho (Republicans).
In both cities, in 2022, Bolsonaro won with the majority of votes. In the case of Belford Roxo, its main organizer was Waguinho, who participated in numerous campaign agendas.
The situation of the party in the state of Rio de Janeiro is considered dramatic: while the PL has 27 city halls, the PT has only three municipalities. Furthermore, the party is working to place the vice-mayor on the ticket of Eduardo Paes (PSD), current mayor of the city of Rio.
With Tarcísio de Freitas, in São Paulo, Lula stated that the state government will have “all the necessary support” from the federal administration, even though it is led by an opposition politician.
“Tarcísio, you will have everything you need from the Presidency of the Republic, because I’m not benefiting the governor, I’m benefiting the most important state in the federation,” said Lula.
Both participated in a ceremony that announced a partnership to carry out work on the underwater tunnel that will connect Santos to Guarujá, on the coast of São Paulo. As a New PAC project, the project is estimated at R$5.8 billion and will have 50% of the amount covered by the federal government.
As Tarcísio is one of Bolsonaro’s main allies, the PT member’s gesture surprised those present. On the other hand, the party’s situation in São Paulo is also worrying: the PT has only 4 city halls. The PL has 56.
Lula’s nods are reflections of the PT’s municipal situation
In the assessment of political scientist Elton Gomes, professor at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI), the party’s strategy is to take up space to gain muscle for the 2024 election and structure the party for 2026.
“The main objective of these nods is of an electoral political nature, aiming for the municipal election in 2024 and later for 2026. We have to remember the importance that city halls have in being able to support majority candidates, at state and federal level, governor and president of the Republic” , he said.
He highlighted that the advance of the right in different parts of the country also motivates the PT to invest in Jair Bolsonaro’s strongholds, especially at a time when the former president is weakened by attacks by the Federal Police and the Supreme Court.
“It is no coincidence that São Paulo and Minas are the two states where he concentrates his efforts. They are the two largest electoral colleges in the country and are the richest states in the federation. This shows the strategic dimension of the Workers’ Party’s behavior given the prognosis of growth of the PL and forces more to the center of the right”, stated Elton.
Governors also need the Union
The governors’ response in accepting Lula’s nods is not surprising. Despite commanding the richest states, they also have strong fiscal problems. The case of Minas stands out among the three. The state has a debt of around R$160 billion with the Union and has not yet been able to enter the Fiscal Recovery Regime (RFF) due to political obstacles.
The case of Rio de Janeiro is also similar, but the state has been in the Fiscal Recovery Regime since 2017. With almost R$180 billion in debt to the Union, Castrou sought throughout 2023 to negotiate with the Palácio do Planalto to review the benefit , claiming that the state lost R$5 billion with the reduction in these taxes.
Created by Complementary Law 159 of 2017, the Fiscal Recovery Regime allows states in a situation of fiscal imbalance to enjoy benefits, such as the relaxation of fiscal rules, the granting of credit operations and the possibility of suspending debt payment.
Despite not being in the same fiscal situation as its neighbors, São Paulo will accommodate billion-dollar PAC works, such as the implementation of the Santos – Guarujá tunnel, the extension of Line 2 Green of the Metro (Vila Prudente – Penha – Guarulhos) and the implementation of São Paulo-Campinas Intercity Train (TIC). To achieve this, the state must rely on resources from the Union, which forces Tarcísio to want to have a good relationship with the Palácio do Planalto.