Analysts: Brazil polls may inspire Pinoy opposition


Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PHILIPPINE opposition forces that include leftists and moderates should focus on building constituents now to give themselves a fighting chance against the resurgence of right-wing populism, political analysts said, as Brazil saw the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right rule in a tight presidential race.

The opposition camp should also capitalize on the alliance strategy it used in the May 9 elections to secure seats in the 2025 senatorial election, they added.

Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva was elected president of Brazil in a stunning comeback after a tight run-off race on Sunday. His victory heralds a political about-face for Latin America’s largest country after four years of Mr. Bolsonaro’s rule.

Mr. Da Silva’s Workers’ Party, which allied itself with both hardline and moderate socialists as well as sectors in the economic and judicial elite, pursued a policy-driven platform as Brazil experienced a major economic crisis under Mr. Bolsonaro, said Hansley A. Juliano, a political economy researcher. 

“The party invested not only in policy platforms but also in actual constituency building, at a time when the internet and globalization had not atomized contemporary societies and generations,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “The party was comparatively uncompromising with its focus on social welfare and economic equitability.”

Mr. Juliano doubts the Liberal Party, whose previous members had been implicated in corruption scandals, and its ally Akbayan Party could lead the opposition in the coming years. “Taking responsibility for the flaws of the Aquino administration and stopping invoking that nostalgia has to be a start for the yellow influencers still online.”

Former Vice-President and Liberal Party head Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, who vowed to pursue economic and political reforms, lost to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. by a landslide May.

Ms. Robredo started as an underdog in the 2022 campaign, and while she eventually became more popular after supporters launched house-to-house and grassroots campaigns, it was not enough to win the presidency.

She ran as an independent candidate and didn’t attend the party’s national assembly last month. 

Mr. Da Silva, who won 60.35 million votes against Mr. Bolsonaro’s 58.21 million, left the presidency from 2003 to 2010 with a high approval rating due in large part to his socioeconomic programs that made Brazil one of the world’s largest economies.

But his party mate and successor Dilma Rousseff got involved in corruption issues that tarnished the reputation of their political party, enabling the rise to power of Mr. Bolsonaro, a former military official who identified himself as a rightist politician.   

“The Workers’ Party and Lula made the effort to say sorry and rebuild trust after it fell from power, which was helped by the level of incompetence of Bolsonaro’s administration,” Mr. Juliano said.

Brazil enforces a two-round system for its presidential elections, where multiple candidates take part in the first round. A second round — where the top two candidates compete — could happen if no single candidate achieves more than 50% of the vote in the first round. 

The second round allows politicians to assess their strength and recalibrate their strategies.

“This system promotes stronger party discipline, a working party organization, comprehensive party platform and tactical voting,” said Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at the Ateneo de Manila University. “Opposition parties were able to mobilize because they were incentivized to do so.”

In the Philippines, the electoral system, which heavily favors the incumbent, forces opposition forces “to disengage, be dissolved or worse, join the administration coalition just to survive,” Mr. Aguirre said.

“What the Philippine opposition can do especially for the next presidential election in 2028 is to use the midterm elections in 2025 for serious party restructuring, sincere constituent engagements, grassroots force development, movement partnerships and coalition building,” he said.

Their efforts should be focused on offering a counter-narrative to the brand of politics left by ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte, whose strongman rule supported by many Filipinos enabled the rise of Mr. Marcos, Mr. Aguirre said.

“The political forces within the opposition should learn how to work together in mainstreaming and deepening this political narrative to win more seats at the House of Representatives and Senate, gain more local positions in local government units and increase their visibility in communities.”

Lula’s victory was “founded” on the earlier success of the Left, which “delivered concrete policies and programs before,” said Anthony Lawrence A. Borja, a member of De La Salle University’s Department of Political Science and Development Studies.

This means any lessons that Philippine opposition forces should learn from the Brazilian election “must reach back to the earlier pink tide of leftist populism,” he said in a Messenger chat, referring to a turn toward left-wing governments in Latin America in the 1990s to 2000s as a protest against the neoliberal economic order.

The pink movement that boosted the Robredo campaign was very different from that of Brazil because it fell short of pushing an anti-capitalist stance. The Robredo bandwagon was a movement against corruption, impunity and rising authoritarianism, experts said.

But the strategy was successful in creating a broad coalition, attracting leftists, liberals, celebrities, businesses owners and former state officials and traditional elites.