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Eroding the Clientelist Monopoly: The Subnational Left Turn and Conservative Rule in Northeastern Brazil

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 September 2022

Brandon Van Dyck
Affiliation:
Lafayette College
Alfred P. Montero
Affiliation:
Carleton College
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Abstract

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Well-financed opposition parties can exert their organizational strength to undercut the territorial advantages of political machines and clientele networks. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, leftist parties in Brazil's Northeast region brought conservative dominance to an end. The Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) led this shift, not only garnering regional majorities in presidential elections but also winning multiple governorships and increasing its share of federal and state legislative seats in the region. In contrast to arguments attributing recent electoral shifts in the Northeast to civil society, aggregate growth, and conditional cash transfers, we argue that the territorial expansion of the PT organization played a central role. A spike in party finances between 2001 and 2003 enabled the PT, for the first time, to establish party offices in northeastern municipalities from the top down. Drawing from underutilized data and sources, we show that the PT leadership eroded conservatives' monopoly on rural territory in the Northeast by strategically targeting hundreds of conservative-dominated municipalities and investing resources to stimulate the formation of local offices. The study demonstrates that this top-down territorial targeting produced considerable electoral gains for PT candidates across federal and state races.

Resumo

Resumo

Partidos de oposição com amplos recursos financeiros podem exercer seu poder organizacional para enfraquecer as vantagens territoriais de máquinas políticas e redes clientelistas. Nos anos 2000, partidos de esquerda na região Nordeste do Brasil (NE) puseram fim ao domínio conservador. O Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) liderou essa mudança, obtendo maiorias regionais em eleições presidenciais, ganhando governos estaduais e aumentando a proporção de petistas que representam o nordeste nos diversos níveis do legislativo. Ao contrário de argumentos que atribuem essas mudanças eleitorais à sociedade civil, ao crescimento econômico ou às transferências condicionais de renda, argumentamos que a expansão territorial do PT teve um papel central. Um aumento no orçamento partidário no início dos anos 2000 possibilitou que o PT, pela primeira vez, estabelecesse escritórios partidários em municípios por toda a região nordestina. Com base em dados e fontes pouco explorados, demostramos que o PT corroeu o monopólio conservador do território rural no NE, estrategicamente identificando centenas de municípios dominados por partidos conservadores e investindo recursos para estimular a formação de escritórios locais. O artigo demostra que essa penetração territorial produziu ganhos eleitorais substanciais em eleições federais e estaduais.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2015 by the Latin American Studies Association

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