One of the three leading presidential candidates of Brazil, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash today. Even if this is the time for condolences, political speculation on the impact of this tragic event is starting. This speculation can also be seen as an indicator of the importance his legacy. Let me offer some very preliminary remarks on what might happen now.
The main question that will be asked in the coming hours and days is whether his vice presidential candidate Marina Silva will take over the main candidacy. My guess is that even if there are likely to be important actors within the party of Campos who do not particularly like Marina Silva, her previously huge popularity makes her the most likely person to take over the main candidacy.
The party has the term “socialist” in its name, but some of its key movers are uncomfortable with Marina Silva’s relatively critical stance toward agribusiness. It may, however, be that the popular pressures for Marina Silva’s candidacy will carry enough weight in the assessment within the party.
How would Marina Silva’s candidacy affect the presidential race? One scenario is that it might create some problems for the current president Dilma Roussef before the first round of the election. My overall starting assumption until today has been that the start of the full-speed electoral campaigning on TV is likely to consolidate Dilma’s support. This could be countered by the possibility that especially some of the women who currently express support of Dilma might be attracted electorally by Marina Silva.
This, however, does not mean that today’s tragic event would bring only bad news for Dilma’s electoral prospects. Marina Silva’s candidacy could also decrease the possibilities for an anti-Dilma coalition in a possible second round. My guess is that during a possible run-off between Dilma and the right-wing Aécio Neves, Marina is less likely to support the latter than Eduardo Campos would have been. Of course, the new situation could also mean, though it is less likely, that Marina Silva herself could make it to the second round of the election. In that case, she could be a particularly difficult adversary for Dilma.
Right now, this is of course merely one possible set of scenarios. We cannot predict the future. I have seen various comments in social media about the death of Eduardo Campos implying a political earthquake or something similar. Not necessarily so. The possibility that his death would radically shatter the probability of Dilma’s reelection is, for the moment, not very obvious.