The Presidential Election of 1989

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The 1989 presidential election, the first direct presidential election since 1960, was established by the 1988 constitution. The 1988 municipal elections were a preview of the 1989 elections for the PMDB, the nation's largest party, which lost in most cities with a population of more than 100,000. Leonel Brizola's PDT (Democratic Labor Party) and Lula's Workers' Party made considerable gains, as voters made plain their rejection of parties associated with the Sarney government.

As a result of more lenient legislation, twenty-two parties qualified candidates for the presidency in 1989. The PRN (Party of National Reconstruction) was hastily organized by a questionable takeover of the Youth Party (Partido da Juventude--PJ) to launch the candidacy of Alagoas governor Fernando Collor de Mello, who had been elected by the PMDB in 1986, and had a brief flirtation with the PSDB in late 1988. Six of the major candidates were closely associated with the Sarney period or with the Big Center in the ANC (National Constituent Assembly).

By June 1989, Collor, aided by numerous television appearances, had close to 50 percent of voter preference. His other advantages in this election included his antiparty and antiestablishment posture; his being relatively unknown politically; a huge war chest of campaign funds, efficiently collected by campaign treasurer, Paulo Cesar Farias; a fleet of fifteen Lear jets at his disposal for campaigning; a sophisticated campaign organization; and his good communication and oratory skills, acquired while working at the family television station in Maceió.

In the first round of voting, Collor received 28.5 percent of the votes and Lula, 16.1 percent, slightly edging out Brizola in a close third. In the second round, Lula managed to pull ahead of Collor in the polls by some 5 percent in the last ten days of the campaign. However, because of Collor's negative campaign attacks against Lula, the election swung in Collor's favor by a 5.7 percent margin. Collor's geographic vote distribution was very similar to that of the PDS (Democratic Social Party)--the smaller the city, the larger Collor's proportion of the vote.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress