Mid-Term Elections in Brazil: Why is the number of blacks in political office so low?

Note from BBT: Whether we’re talking Brazil or the United States, politically, black people in both countries have something else in common: A lack of political power. With another election cycle having recently passed with the election of Democrat Joe Biden as the next US President, the question, once again be what’s in it for the black population. Having watched the antics of the Democratic Party for years I don’t think I’d been saying something outrageous if I replied “Probably nothing”.

So, now there will be a black woman as Vice-President….And? What does that really mean? The fact is, in the US, there have been thousands of African-Americans elected to everything from city councils, to mayoral offices, governor’s mansion and even the White House. But, if we go back to just the years of the John F. Kennedy Administration I have to ask: What has really changed for Black America? Sure, there are black multi-millionaires and even a few billionaires, but individual wealth is not how you measure the overall situation of an entire community. To be real, I don’t think this issue is even up for debate…

Let me move on to Brazil where it seems, politically, the Afro-Brazilian population is now where the the African-American community was back in 1970s. As a whole, black Brazilians are understanding the necessity of improving economic and political positions to even consider a possibility of improving the community. And it shows.

In terms of economic force, there is a growing number of black Brazilians becoming entrepreneurs and still others going beyond that, calling for the practice of “black money“. Politically, in 2002, there has been a record number of black women candidacies for various political offices. This year there are over 180,000 women running for political office and in terms of black candidates, for the first time in Brazilian electoral history, the number of black people running for political office has surpassed the number of white candidates.

That’s HUGE.

But wait, let me break this down again. In reality, the number of preto e pardo (black AND brown) candidates is higher than white candidates for the first time. I have made clear that I no longer subscribe to the idea that all pardos (brown people) are black, so we have to consider this when talking in numbers. But this is still big news.

In 2016, the Brazil’s electoral court registered more than 194,000 pardos (39.12%) and nearly 43,000 pretos (8.64%), which represented about 47.76% of all candidates registered. Together, this means that blacks and browns didn’t quite reach the percentage of white candidates, which came in at nearly 256,000 candidates, representing 51.45% of all candidates.

But for the 2020 election, this number has increased significantly. According to the latest data, the total number candidates defining themselves as pardos came to more than 215,000 people with the number pretos being a little more than 57,000, representing 39.42% and 10.45% percent of the candidates. Combined, the two groups make up 49.87% of all candidates edging out brancos (whites) which represent 47.77% of all candidates.

One other that we have to keep in mind is that, statistically, nearly 50% of candidates identify as black or brown, we must keep in mind that we must take any stats on race in Brazil with a grain of salt. After all, race is already a mixed bag in Brazil as it is and now we learn that candidates are switching their color categories. White candidates are defining themselves as black and brown, brown candidates are becoming white and black candidates are going from black to brown and back to black again.

Whatever the official numbers may be, the question remains, why have black people been shut out of Brazilian politics for so long? With mid-term elections just a few days away, this is a question worth exploring. Considering everything we already know, the answer shouldn’t be difficult to guess, but let’s see what the experts say.

Why is the rate of blacks in political office so low?

As the country often defined as having the second black population in the world (behind only Nigeria), Brazil is a territory that has great cultural, ethnic and social diversity. However, this same diversity does not appear in some places, as, for example, in politics. How is the index of blacks in political positions in Brazil? Read on and you’ll soon see.


First, it is important to clarify the concept of political office. Articles 6 and 7 of Decree-Law No. 434-F/82 of October 29, 1982 deal with the subject. According to this, there are two types of political positions: elective and nomination. Electives are those elected by the population during elections, as governors and deputies. Nominating positions, as the name says, are those designated or appointed by someone, as ministers of the Supreme Federal Court (STF), who are appointed by the President of the Republic.

BLACKS IN POLITICAL POSITIONS IN BRAZIL 54% of Brazilians declare themselves black or brown But only 18% of the blacks and browns have prominent positions

A study done in 2017 by the social scientist graduated from the University of São Paulo (USP), Osmar Teixeira Gaspar, portrays the situation of the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo (Alesp) and the Municipality of São Paulo in relation to black representation in office politicians.

According to the researcher, black candidates who are elected have great difficulties in moving forward with the campaign, due to the majority having incomplete edcuation and little financial structure. In addition, the absence of black political representatives ends up becoming naturalized. Public policies are voted on and significantly affect a minority without at least one representative present. This type of study reveals the social inequality present in the country, even in spheres of high power.

ELECTION STATISTICS The TSE (Superior Electoral Court) makes available information regarding the elections, such as statistics of age group, gender and color on its website. During the 2014 and 2016 elections, we can observe the low rate of black people, both in candidacies and being elected.

Analyzing data from the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) on the 2016 elections, the number of black candidates elected remains lower than the number of white candidates. There are 29.11% of self-declared black mayors and 70.29% white. The same is true for the position of city councilors: 42.07% black and 57.13% white. The difference is also noticed when we consider gender for black women, but this is another issue, which requires a deeper approach.


We already understand that racial inequality exists in the political sector. But why is it that this happens?

2014 ELECTIONS Election: 2014 General Elections 1st Round – 10/5/2014 – Scope: Brazil Situation: Eligible PRESIDENT White Candidates: 10 (1 elected) – Black Candidates:1 (0 elected) GOVERNOR White Candidates: 110 (20 elected) – Black Candidates: 51 (6 elected)

First, it is important to understand the meaning of the term. Inequality means the lack of balance between the parties, so racial inequality would be this difference aimed at ethnic groups. In a video by the Super Interesting channel, the current scenario of racial inequality in Brazil is shown, including mentioning the representation of blacks in political positions:

SENATORS – White Candidates: 112 (22 elected) Black Candidates: 49 (5 elected) DEPUTADO (CONGRESSMEN/WOMEN) (state, federal, district) White Candidates: 1,701 (1.185 elected) Black Candidates: 9,274 (384 elected)

But, going back to the explanation of why the low number of blacks in Brazilian politics, there are several possible points of view and reflections on it. Here are some of them:

Campaign investment resources

According to sociologist Augusto Campos, even if a considerable percentage of black politicians are running for office, the amount they get to invest in their campaigns is low. Furthermore, compared to white politicians, spending is also lower. This is because they don’t have such concrete support from their parties for their candidacies and not always personalities who fight for their causes nowadays apply.

ELECTIONS 2016 Year: 2016 Ordinary Election Municipal Elections 2016 Scope: Brazil Status: Apt Mayoral Elections White candidates: 10,530 (3,895 Elected) Black candidates: 5,138 (1,604 Elected) City Council Election White candidates: 222,217 (33.057 elected) Black candidates: 212,106 (24,325 elected)

Racial equity policies

In Brazil, there is no mandatory minimum quota for parties to run for black politicians, different from the percentage for gender. The Elections Law establishes that parties fill a minimum of 30% and a maximum of 70% of candidates for each gender.

AS MUCH AS a significant amount of blacks become candidates,
The NUMBER of elected officials is still smaller than white politicians

History of blacks in Brazil

Despite the focus being on the low number of blacks in political positions, this ends up not being the only place where the index is pointed out. Differences in various sectors are the result of centuries of prejudice, racism and discrimination in Brazil.

After years of the abolition of slavery, the implementation of public policies aimed at the inclusion of this ethnic group and the like, racial inequalities in Brazil still exist. There is still a lot to do to achieve race/color equity.

The scenario of a significant number of blacks today continues to reflect this history. Low education can lead to lower employment opportunities, which, as a result, contribute to low income. Consequently, all this reverberates in what was mentioned in this topic: campaigns without sufficient budget, lack of support from the parties and everything we have seen.


It’s not because we are discussing the low rate of black politicians that it means that there are none, right? The characters that contributed and/or contribute to causes of great value for our country are notorious. Some examples are:

Nilo Peçanha
  • Nilo Peçanha (1867-1924): Considered the first president of the black republic, he was also a deputy, governor and vice president. One of his measures was the creation of the Escola de Aprendizes Artífices (School of Apprentice Craftsmen) and his government motto was “Peace and Love”.
Antonieta de Barros
  • Antonieta de Barros (1901-1952): Journalist and first black parliamentarian in Brazil, founded the Antonieta de Barros Private Course, with the objective of providing a dignified education for the needy population.
Marielle Franco
  • Marielle Franco (1979-2018): In addition to being a sociologist and councilor in Rio de Janeiro, Marielle defended, among other ideals, greater female participation in politics. She even chaired the Commission for the Defense of Women. Her murder had international repercussions and led to demonstrations
Joaquim Barbosa
  • Joaquim Barbosa (1954 -): Lawyer, he was a minister and first black president of the Supreme Federal Court (STF), in addition to vice president of TSE. He was also a member of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF).
Leci Brandão
  • Leci Brandão (1944 -): In addition to being a singer, songwriter and actress, Leci Brandão is a state deputy for the state of São Paulo. She was Counselor to the National Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality and also a member of the National Council for Women’s Rights for four years, in addition to fighting for minority rights and respect for African religions.
Alceu Collares
  • Alceu Collares (1927 – until today): Lawyer, Alceu Collares was the first black governor democratically elected by the state of Rio Grande do Sul. He was also mayor of Porto Alegre and federal deputy. He even suffered racism within the party itself.


Before we look for a solution, in fact, to the racial inequality among politicians in Brazil, it is worth highlighting some points. As said before, it arises from a series of other factors, the root is deeper. It is not enough just to have an attitude to solve everything, or to wait for things to change suddenly.

Paulo Paim

Senator Paulo Paim is the author of the Statute of Racial Equality, instituted in 2010. He has the goal of establishing policies aimed at reducing racial inequality. According to the senator, in the law there was an article about quotas for blacks in political positions. However, it was left aside because they believed that if it remained, the Statute would not be voted on.

Above all, an interesting solution is a set of public policies aimed at social equality in Brazil. This is true both in the commercial sector (overcoming wage differences) and cultural (intolerance), educational (access to quality education) and related areas. Even so, it is important to point out that racism in Brazil exists. We cannot settle for this kind of prejudice or simply ignore it.

Source: Catraca Livre, Politize

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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