Presidential elections: centrality, context and implications

Olavo Brasil de Lima Junior

This paper argues that the conjugation of certain democratic, socioeconomic and political factors has led to the "nationalization" of presidential elections in Brazil since 1960. The expansion of the electoral market resulting from urbanization and the growth in the electorate, together with the progressive removal of the obstacles to voting - due to income, gender, age, and education - has democratized the electoral process by diversifying the social make-up of the electorate. Since then, the president's election has ceased to depend solely upon rural political forces and now involves multiple combinations of rural and urban political forces. Candidates can no longer count on specific and numerous social groups in order to guarantee their election, and need to widen their appeal. Based on the results of the direct presidential elections of 1960, 1989, 1994 and 1998, the author contends that the "nationalization" of the vote as described above is part of the political integration of Brazilian society and that this, together with the social complexity of the electorate, means that the candidate's appeal and political stance need to be more wide-ranging in order to prevent potential conflicts from arising during the election campaign.

Presidential elections; Electoral participation; Social base; Composition of electorate; Political integration

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