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Brazil: Marina Silva Pulls Vanishing Act After Election Loss

Where have you gone, Marina Silva?
Where have you gone, Marina Silva?
Bernardo Mello Franco

BRASILIA — Not so many months ago, pollsters were saying she'd be Brazil's next president. But now, three months after failing to make it to even the second round of the election, former Sen. Marina Silva is nowhere to be seen. The once high-flying candidate seems to have lost more than just a presidential race.

Some of the people closest to Silva during the campaign have been quick to move away. The latest on the list are Walter Feldman and Luiza Erundina, who coordinated her whole campaign and helped launch her new party, Sustainability Network. Others involved in the new project had already left and are now trying to create their own political group, Avante (Forward), inspired by Spain's Podemos party.

Silva's isolation can be explained at least in part by her decision to support center-right candidate Aécio Neves against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in the second round. That move divided her supporters, the so-called Marineiros.

It was a "wrong" and "incoherent" choice, says Erundina, a member of the legislature. "Marina denounced in the strongest terms the polarization between Rousseff's Workers' Party and Neves' Social Democracy Party, but in the end she decided to pick one of these sides. It contradicted everything she stood for during her campaign."

Erundina, who is now becoming closer to the dissidents building Avante, is also critical of Silva's decision to "vanish" since losing the election. The former candidate and environmental activist has even avoided events organized by political allies. Silva, in fact, hasn't been seen in public in almost two months.

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Photo: msilvaonline

Erundina thinks someone who managed to gather 22 million votes just a few months ago shouldn't play hide and seek, especially now that the government is announcing tough and unpopular economic measures such as tax hikes and benefit cuts.

"Marina is being too quiet," Erundina says. "This is a serious situation, but I don't hear her say anything about it anymore. She created an expectation that she would tackle national issues, but sadly the Brazilian people are still waiting for an answer."

Walter Feldman, Silva's right-hand man in 2014, started to distance himself soon after the second round, eventually going so far as to resign from the Brazilian Socialist Party. Now he's left politics entirely — to assist the future president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, soccer's national body. Feldman prefers not to comment on Silva's future. When asked about her public absence, he says only that he hasn't spoken with her. "Marina has her own temporal logic," he says.

Her former ally might have a point. Silva hasn't given an interview since mid-December and declined an invitation to speak with Folha de S. Paulo. According to her advisor, she spent the last month-and-a-half vacationing with her family but will return soon to launch her new party.

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Geert Wilders, The Europe Union's Biggest Problem Since Brexit

The victory of Geert Wilders' far-right party in this week's elections in the Netherlands shows that politics in Europe, at both the national and European Union level, has fundamentally failed to overcome its contradictions.

Geert Wilders, The Europe Union's Biggest Problem Since Brexit

A campaign poster of Geert Wilders, who leads the Party for Freedom (PVV) taken in the Hague, Netherlands

Pierre Haski

Updated Nov. 28, 2023 at 6:15 p.m.


PARIS — For a long time, Geert Wilders, recognizable by his peroxide hair, was an eccentric, disconcerting and yet mostly marginal figure in Dutch politics. He was known for his public outbursts against Muslims, particularly Moroccans who are prevalent in the Netherlands, which once led to a court convicting him for the collective insulting of a nationality.

Consistently ranking third or fourth in poll results, this time he emerged as the leader in Wednesday's national elections. The shock is commensurate with his success: 37 seats out of 150, twice as many as in the previous legislature.

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The recipe is the same everywhere: a robustly anti-immigration agenda that capitalizes on fears. Wilders' victory in the Netherlands reflects a prevailing trend across the continent, from Sweden to Portugal, Italy and France.

We must first see if Wilders manages to put together the coalition needed to govern. Already the first roadblock came this week with the loss of one of his top allies scouting for coalition partners from other parties: Gom van Strien, a senator in Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) was forced to resign from his role after accusations of fraud resurfaced in Dutch media.

Nonetheless, at least three lessons can be drawn from Wilders' far-right breakthrough in one of the founding countries of the European Union.

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