Brazilian presidential election, 1989

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Brazilian presidential election, 1989
1985 ←
November 15, 1989 → 1994

  Collor01022007.jpg Luís Inácio Lula da Silva 03102008.jpg Brizola.jpg
Candidate Fernando Collor de Mello Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Leonel Brizola
Home state Alagoas Pernambuco / São Paulo Rio de Janeiro
Running mate Itamar Franco José Paulo Bisol Fernando Lyra
Popular vote 22,611,011 (1st round)
35,089,998 (2nd round)
11,622,673 (1st round)
31,076,364 (2nd round)
11,168,228 (1st round)
Percentage 32.47% (1st round)
53.03% (2nd round)
16.69% (1st round)
46.97% (2nd found)
16.04% (1st round)

  Mário Covas.jpg Maluf20122006-3.jpg
Candidate Mário Covas Paulo Salim Maluf
Home state São Paulo São Paulo
Running mate Almir Gabriel Bonifácio Andrada
Popular vote 7,790,392 (1st round) 5,986,575 (1st round)
Percentage 11.19% (1st round) 8.60% (1st round)

President before election

José Sarney

Elected President

Fernando Collor
National Reconstruction Party

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The presidential election of 1989 was the first direct presidential election in Brazil since 1960. Fernando Collor de Mello won a plurality of votes in the first round, but was not declared the winner of the election because the 1988 Constitution established the two-round system in the country. After receiving 454,445 (0.63% of the total votes) more votes than Leonel Brizola from the Democratic Labour Party, a symbol of the old left-wing, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from the Workers' Party proceeded to the second round against Collor. Collor won the second round by a margin of 5.71%. This was the closest presidential election in Brazilian history until 2014.

Historical context[edit]

On January 15, 1985, Tancredo Neves won the election for president on the electoral college, represented by Deputies and Senators, putting an end to the 21-year-old military dictatorship. However, Neves died and José Sarney, the Vice-President-elect, took office. Sarney was seen with suspicion by the civilian population, since he had been a member of the military regime's official party. There were some questioning of the legitimacy of Sarney appointment, once Neves had died as President-elect without ever taking office. The support of General Leônidas Pires Gonçalves, appointed by Neves as Minister of the Army, was decisive for Sarney taking office, drawing even more suspicion.

Nevertheless, as promised by Neves, Sarney's government was responsible for the gradual redemocratization of the country. In 1986, he called an election to form the National Constituent Assembly, which promulgated a new Constitution on November 5, 1988. The new document claimed for direct elections for President, Governors and Deputies in the following year. Also during Sarney's term as president, formerly clandestine parties such as the Brazilian Communist Party and the Brazilian Socialist Party were legalized. Sarney also established the Mercosul. Aside from considerable progress towards democracy, Sarney's government is remembered for employing old members of the regime. Actress and Deputy Bete Mendes claimed that one of her torturers from the DOI-CODI, Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, was a military attaché in the Brazilian Embassy in Uruguay at the time[citation needed].

The election[edit]

The 1989 elections were the first in almost 30 years in which eligible Brazilian citizens were able to directly vote for President. The political parties were relatively new but managed to actively mobilise the population five years after massive demonstrations for direct elections had helped to put an end to the military regime. Twenty-two presidential candidatures were launched, establishing a record number of candidates in a single presidential election in Brazil. Since no candidate managed to obtain the majority of valid votes (excluding blank and void votes), a second round was held, as mandated by the new electoral law. The first round took place on November 15, 1989, the same date of the Brazilian Republic's 100th anniversary. The second round was held on December 17 of the same year, disputed by the two candidates with higher number of votes in the first round: Fernando Collor de Mello of the now-defunct National Reconstruction Party and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers' Party.

The level of enthusiasm in Lula's campaign was huge, with big rallies around the country and several artists participating in the music video for the famous jingle "Lula Lá", aired during his free television canvass which became a classic tune of Brazilian politics. Other artists, like actress Marília Pêra, preferred to support Collor and sustain his discourse, stating that they feared what could happen in Brazil if the leftist union leader Lula was victorious.

The candidates discourse and biased coverage[edit]

During the second round, Rede Globo aired a debate between the remaining candidates. In the broadcast of Jornal Nacional on the following day, Globo aired an edited version of the debate highlighting Collor's best moments and Lula's worst ones. This broadcast was seen by many as a biased coverage of Globo in favor of Collor, of whom Roberto Marinho was a friend. This event was explored on Channel 4's documentary Beyond Citizen Kane, where the head of journalism of Globo at the time, Armando Nogueira, explained how his edit of the debate shown at the lunchtime news program was altered to favor Collor on the evening news. After complaining to Marinho about the biased edit he was dismissed from the company.

Some people attribute Collor's victory to this particular event, although other media coverage have influenced voters, such as an article at Jornal do Brasil accusing Lula of having a bastard daughter. Later, Collor's campaign contacted Lula's ex-girlfriend and mother of the child in question to reveal that Lula asked her to perform an abortion. Many, however, argue that Lula was inexperienced and naïve with politics, which led to a high level of enthusiasm from his supporters but some difficulty in passing his message across to many potential voters. Despite being a charismatic left wing union leader running for the presidency of a country with a rather small middle class, he failed to attract the majority of the votes from the poor - who would, later on, form the basis of his electorate - who voted predominantly for the candidate most associated with the old economic elite of the poor Northeastern region. As it was, Lula support was bigger among intellectuals, catholic activists, skilled workers and the educated middle class of the South and Southeast regions, despite the fact that he was himself originally a poor immigrant from the Northeast.

Collor, on the other hand, argued that Lula would destroy Brazil`s already fragile economy at the time, harming the poor people he claimed to champion. At the same time, Collor appealted to his young age and looks to assert that he was a new type of politician, apart from the old "sons of the dictatorship" as well as the newer economic and political elites who had supported Sarney`s government and the Plano Cruzado economic program. His crusade against corruption and patrimonialism gained him a lot of support, which quickly vanished as his involvement with a corruption scandal led to an impeachment midway through his presidency.


First round[edit]

Candidate Votes %
Fernando Collor de Mello (PRN, PSC, PTR, PST) 22,611,011 32.47
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT, PSB, PC do B) 11,622,673 16.69
Leonel Brizola (PDT) 11,168,228 16.04
Mário Covas (PSDB) 7,790,392 11.19
Paulo Salim Maluf (PDS) 5,986,575 8.60
Guilherme Afif Domingos (PL, PDC) 3,272,462 4.70
Ulysses Guimarães (PMDB) 3,204,932 4.60
Roberto Freire (PCB) 769,123 1.10
Aureliano Chaves (PFL) 600,838 0.86
Ronaldo Caiado (PSD, PDN) 488,846 0.70
Affonso Camargo Neto (PTB) 379,286 0.54
Enéas Ferreira Carneiro (PRONA) 360,561 0.52
José Alcides Marronzinho de Oliveira (PSP) 238,425 0.34
Paulo Gontijo (PP) 198,719 0.29
Zamir José Teixeira (PCN) 187,155 0.27
Lívia Maria de Abreu (PN) 179,922 0.26
Eudes Oliveira Mattar (PLP) 162,350 0.23
Fernando Gabeira (PV) 125,842 0.18
Celso Brant (PMN) 109,909 0.16
Antônio dos Santos Pedreira (PPB) 86,114 0.12
Manoel de Oliveira Horta (PDC do B) 83,286 0.12
Armando Corrêa da Silva (PMB) 4,363 0.01
Silvio Santos (PMB) 0† 0.00†
Blank 1,176,413 1.6
Void 3,473,484 4.4
Total 74,280,909ª 100
† : candidature contested by the Electoral Justice.
ª : People able to vote = 82.074.718 (Abstention = 7.793.809).[1]

In most States, Collor got the most votes. Lula, however, was the leading candidate in the Federal District, and Brizola won the most votes in Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.[2]

Second round[edit]

Candidate Votes %
Fernando Collor de Mello (PRN, PSC, PTR, PST) 35,089,998 53.03
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT, PSB, PC do B) 31,076,364 46.97
Blank 986,446 1.40
Void 3,107,893 4.42
Total 70,260,701ª 100
ª: Abstention = 11,814,017.

Lula had the biggest share of the vote in each of the States of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, along with the Federal District; Collor won the most votes in each of the other States.[3]


  1. ^ "60 Anos de Justiça Eleitoral".
  2. ^
  3. ^

External links[edit]