New finance laws change landscape of Brazilian elections

Latin America

Brazil’s general elections next month could bring a new president and vice president to office.

Voters will also have a whole slate of new national and local representatives to vote on.

The campaign is in high gear but there is a significant difference this year.

New campaign finance laws are limiting the money candidates can raise and spend.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral has more on this new political reality.

In years past, print shops like this one in Sao Paulo got a big boost in business during election season. But not this year. Some jobs still came in but new limitations on campaign spending took most business away.

According to the new law, political parties and candidates can no longer receive donations from companies only from individual citizens, limited to 10 percent of their yearly income. Instead, the parties now get public funds for campaigning distributed according to the size of their current representation in Congress.

The owner here says it’s worse for his business but maybe better for the country.

“Well, for me as a businessman it was good when more money was spent in campaigns. But as a Brazilian citizen I think maybe this is the kind of money that didn’t have to be spent on this,” Fad Elias Abdalla, owner of Pontograf said.

The new campaign finance rules drastically reduced the resources available for candidates and political parties had to adapt to a new reality of canvassing votes by spending less.

“It becomes more one to one, more discussion of proposals, and less let’s say special effects or Hollywood type of images we had in previous campaigns. It’s the first general election with those rules. And I think we do have to review certain rules. I really do think that business should participate in political campaigns but with strict rules,” said Luiz Felipe D’Avila a government program proposals coordinator.

For candidates who never had corporate support, the new rules didn’t change much. Monica Seixas represents a group of 10 co-candidates of what they call the “activist bench.” Formally she’d be the only elected official but she’s committed to discuss all decisions with the group, if their collective bid to the state assembly is successful. Crowdsourcing is their main funding strategy.

“More than 700 people donated money to us because they believe in our project and want to be a part of this movement of reclaiming politics. We believe that when companies finance campaigns, they do it because they have vested interests. So, if people want to reclaim politics, they need to participate from the start,” said Monica Seixas the state assembly candidate, Socialism and Liberty Party.

The new finance rules are already changing the way political campaigns are run in Brazil. How successful they are in limiting corporate influence and engaging new voices in public discourse will become more apparent after results come in next month.