Lula supporter leads in Brazil election

Dilma Rousseff

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s hand-picked successor failed to win the presidency in national elections Sunday, but analysts predicted an easy victory when Brazilians return to the pollsOct. 31.

With 91 percent of votes counted late Sunday, Dilma Rousseff, a guerilla-turned-bureaucrat and the daughter of Bulgarian immigrants, had received 46.7 percent in a nine-candidate field. She needed 50 percent to avoid a runoff.

Rousseff heads into the second round against José Serra, a former governor and government minister, who received 32 percent.

In the months ahead of the election, several polls had predicted that Rousseff, riding Lula da Silva’s 80 percent popularity wave, would win the presidency outright, avoiding the runoff. The latest, by O Globo television network right before the election, had shown Rousseff at 51 percent.

“I think it is a defeat not to win in the first round,” says Arthur Ituassu, a professor of social communication at the Pontifícia Universade Católica in Rio de Janeiro. “But she is in a very strong position. . . . The chances are that she will win in the second round.”

Rousseff’s failure to win the presidency on Sunday may be due to the emergence of two corruption scandals, analysts said.

The Green Party’s Marina Silva, herself a former activist and environment minister for Lula and native of the remote Amazonian state of Acre, came in third with nearly 20 percent. Final pre-election polls had put her only as high as 17 percent.

Over the next four weeks, the battle will be for voters who supported Silva. She is likely to throw her support to Serra or stay neutral, said David Fleischer, a professor of political science at the University of Brasília.

The former environment minister had resigned from Lula da Silva’s cabinet and there is “no love lost” between her and Rousseff, Fleischer says.

During the campaign, many said that Serra and Rousseff lacked the charisma of Lula da Silva, who has had huge success in turning around the Brazilian economy over eight years.

The largest country in Latin America is also one of the most prosperous, and Lula da Silva has been credited with lifting 21 million Brazilians out of poverty. The country was also awarded the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Lula da Silva, however, had been criticized for his close relations to Iran. The issue has come up in the debates but has not been much of a factor in the campaign.

Serra has always said that his goal was to get into a runoff.

“We’re going to lead to victory in the campaign in the second round,” said the Brazilian Social Democracy party candidate and former minister in the cabinet of Lula da Silva’s predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.


“We’re going to have a completely new ball game” with campaigning now, said Alexandre Barros, managing director of the Brasília political consultancy Early Warning Consulting.

This is the first election since the return to democracy in 1985 — after 21 years of military dictatorship — where Lula da Silva’s name has not been on the ballot. The constitution bars him from running for a third consecutive term.

Since the campaign officially began in July, Rousseff was first viewed skeptically as an unknown since she had never run for public office. But from initial voter support for her in the upper-30 percent, she rose to above the 50 percent mark in September.

Two corruption scandals that emerged in recent weeks then began chipping away at her air of inevitability.

In one, members of her party were accused of illegally accessing the tax records of Serra’s family. In the second scandal, one of Rousseff’s and Lula da Silva’s top aide’s family was accused of running an influence-peddling scheme to secure government contracts.


“The perception was that if Lula [da Silva] had acted faster [to remove the implicated aide], voters would have been certain that he took a step in the good direction, the ethics direction,” Barros said. “As it took time, this gave people time to doubt. . . . [Though] the people who defected were fewer” than many expected.

Still, many voters seemed unperturbed by the allegations and saw Rousseff as a replacement to Lula da Silva even if they were not enthusiastic about the candidate herself.

“When it’s election season, I don’t think much about these things [allegations of scandal],” said Maria Luiza after voting in the Martin Luther King municipal school.

Luiza said she is “very suspicious” about why the allegations came out in the midst of the campaign.

Source: Miami Herald

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