Europe for the anti-Europeans

2020 Municipal Elections: the day after of “different from everything else”

The well-known Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “Democracy, for example, arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects”. Over the last decade, the democratic western world has experienced exhaustion of traditional party representativeness and rise of the “non-political” (“outsiders”) sustained by the narrative that “we are different from everything else.” There are several examples: the Five Star Movement in Italy, Podemos and Ciudadanos in Spain, AfD in Germany, En Marché in France, Brexit Party in the UK, US President Donald Trump himself and recently the election of a comedian in Ukraine. for president in Ukraine. In Brazil, the unexpected victory of Jair Bolsonaro added our country to the map of the “disruption” of the traditional party system. However, we are already entering the hangover of this disruptive narrative. What does this mean? And what can we expect for the 2020 municipal elections? 

The inherent barriers of governing are catapulting several “new parties/movements” into the uncomfortable position of being part of the “system”. By winning votes and consequently administrative responsibilities, it is much harder to preach that “everything is wrong” and we are different. The day after is more complex and there is no lack of electoral data and mediocre popularity indices to support such a trend.

In Spain, Podemos faces much higher electoral resistance. The French President Emmanuel Macron slips in popularity indices and still suffered a strong electoral defeat in the European elections. In the United States, although the favorite to remain in the White House, Donald Trump has one of the worst ratings in presidential history.

Greece, which held national elections in early July, is an important case of the “day after”. The Syriza party, which had beaten the establishment parties at the peak of the Greek economic crisis, lost and handed over power to a representative of the Greek center-right: Kyriakos Mitsokis (from the New Democracy). The victory was based on the classic center-right positioning: creating a more favorable business environment and an agenda of privatizations and tax cuts. However, the most interesting thing was to realize from Greek opinion polls that Syriza (“different from everything else” left in its conception), in the electorate’s imagination, became a representative of the traditional center-left. Many Greek experts allegate that the country has returned to the bipartisan system but with Alex Tsipras’ party (defeated prime minister) occupying the center. In practice, what does this mean? After choosing “different from everything else” the electorate wants politicians to solve problems efficiently.

In the quantitative and qualitative surveys of 2019 from IDEIA Big Data, and already targeting the 2020 elections, we have been asking what does the voter expect from future mayors. The answers goes beyond attributes such as “honesty”, “no scandals” or “out of Operation Car Wash”. All of those very present in 2018. In 2020, claiming to be “different from everything else” won’t be enough. Candidates will, in addition to demonstrating honesty, also have to prove their capacity to manage and solve cities’ daily life issues. Words like “experience” and “good manager” comes up more frequently in surveys.

If Aristotle were alive, he would say: Nothing makes politicians so equal in all respects than governing.

Mauricio Moura: Economist, PhD in Economics and Public Sector Policy. Mauricio is a visiting professor at George Washington University and has recently received a certificate from the Harvard University Owner/President Management Program. Founder and CEO of IDEIA Big Data.

Brexit and public opinion: time to tighten the belts

The United Kingdom has been expecting to leave the European Union since June 23rd, 2016, when the population voted (with a  narrow margin of votes) for Brexit. Since then, with comings and goings, the population doesn’t know the minimum parameters of the “day after”.  This journey has become a joke around the world. Even according to the definitions listed in the “Urban Dictionary”, an informal online English slang dictionary, you can use the term “brexiting” for the attitude of someone who says goodbye to everyone at a party but stays there or who will abandon a card game and remains at the table. Over the years, the common questions of British public opinion are: will it happen now? and how? From an analytical point of view: what are the basic learnings from this Brexit process for democracies such as Brazil for example.

Depending on the recently appointed and always controversial Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it seems that it will happen. He has just launched a huge public information campaign called “Get Ready for Brexit.” The objective is to prepare the population for leaving the European Union on October 31st. For critics of the conservative leader, it is the contemporary version of “Airplane!” (American movie of the ’80s).

Regardless of the political side, Sir Boris Johnson uses public opinion data to justify the launch of the campaign: “only” 50% of the population thinks that the UK is likely to leave the EU on October 31st and that 42% of small and medium-sized companies have no information of how to prepare. By gathering historical public opinion data, we can say that never an event of such impact had so much misinformation of those directly affected. The way this episode unfolds will sustain social science studies for a long time.

From this Brexit process, there are numerous learnings for Brazil. However, let’s focus on two particularly. First, referendums with “binary” options for complex topics can be expensive in the future. We are debating about possessing/bearing weapons resulting from a referendum that little informed/clarified the public opinion on the subject. I hope that topics such as political reform will not be presented in a binary form to our voters. There is no simple (binary) solution to complex issues. In a highly polarized environment such as the present, simplistic approaches tend to produce very costly results for society

And second, that a decision of this magnitude is not the result of the wishes of a partisan minority (very minor indeed). Prime Minister Boris Johnson carrying his nearly 93,000 votes for the leader of the Conservative Party will decide the direction of the UK at one of the most decisive events in its history. It is important to remember that conservatives do not have a majority of the British Parliament (they live under an unstable minority government). This cognitive dissonance between specific partisan political interests and the aspirations of the population is one of the major structural disruptions of modern democracies. Trust in democracy rates in democracies around the world are falling. The challenge for global leaders is to re-establish this fundamental bond of trust. Little has been done lately, unfortunately.

Therefore, communication is essential and the British government has had over 3 years to explain what Brexit means in the life of the average citizen. It left it for the final moment of “happening now”. It remains as an example that not communicating is always postponing the problem (exchanging well-done communication in the present for chaos in the future). Destiny (post-Brexit) is unknown, and solutions, in the mind of public opinion, are still abstract. But in the land of the Queen, the problems caused by Brexit are already quite real. We can only fasten our seat belts because the pilot …

Mauricio Moura: Economist, PhD in Economics and Public Sector Policy. Mauricio is a visiting professor at George Washington University and has recently received a certificate from the Harvard University Owner/President Management Program. Founder and CEO of IDEIA Big Data.

Presidential elections in Latin America: the research for musketeers

Mauricio Moura | July 15th, 2018


“All for one and one for all” is the motto commonly associated with the heroes of the Three Musketeers, the novel by Alexandre Dumas published in 1844. The slogan was used by the French musketeers Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan, loyal to each other despite the circumstances and evidences. But how does it relate to the presidential elections of Paraguay, Colombia and Mexico, and what it’s expected from Brazilian rallies? In many ways.

I’ll explain: Latin America has lived a long era of presidential debates centered on the economy. During decades, the keywords were “debt crisis, moratoria, inflation, high-interest rates and unemployment”. My grandmother, who passed away at 80 in 2014, has lived all these cycles and used to say: “There is inflation when the money is in your pocket but is worth nothing. There is a recession when the money is worth something but isn’t in your pocket. In Paraguay, Colombia, and Mexico, elections have shown that these words belong to the past. The economy has gained the company of two other musketeers: the fight against corruption and violence.

In Paraguay, the conservative Colorado Party, which controls the country’s politics for 70 years, suffered more than expected in the presidential elections. Its candidate, Mario Abdo Benítez, waited for hours until the end of the scrutiny watching his opponent, the liberal Efraín Alegre, getting closer, staying only four percentage points behind. His victory had as main pillars the mandatory military service for the children of single mothers, aiming to decrease violence rates and drug consumption, and the promise of radical justice reforms to reduce corruption, the endemic evil of the country. 

In Colombia, violence continues as a huge concern. Nevertheless, this time, corruption was another worry, according to local surveys. This data partly helps to understand the result. Obviously, corruption affects above all, the image of who’s in power, in this case, the president Juan Manuel Santos and his government. The winner, Iván Duque, is young (41 years), Santos’ opponent and with a brief history in politics, which allowed him to distance himself from scandals.