Monday, October 27, 2014

Dilma Rousseff wins by slim margin in Brazilian presidential runoff

Dilma Rousseff, the leftist former guerrilla, was able to win a second term winning a run-off election over Aecio Neves but only by a narrow margin. With 98 percent of votes counted Rousseff, received 51.45 per cent of the valid votes.

Opinion polls before the results showed Roussef winning by a margin of 4 to 6 per cent. Many Brazilians are unhappy with a recent decline in the economy coupled with rising inflation. Recently inflation has been above the government's target of 6.5 per cent. Added to this is public concern over poor public services and corruption within the government. Many Brazilians were upset by the huge costs of the recent FIFA world cup. ]
The presidential campaign was quite acrimonious with many attack ads on both sides. Rousseff's party represents itself as the party of the less well off and portrays Neves as a playboy with little concern for the poor. Rousseff was far ahead of Neves after the first round winning 41.5 per cent of the vote to only 33.6 per cent for Neves. The prominent environmentalist Marina Silva was third with 21 percent of the vote. In spite of being on the left many of her voters must have voted for Neves.
 One 35-year-old told an Al-Jazeera analyst: "I am from a privilaged class but the poor people who need the government's help most have seen their lives improve a lot. Everyone else in my family voted for Aecio, though." More recent vote results with over 99 percent of votes counted show Rousseff with 51.6 percent of votes and Neves with 48.4 percent of the vote. The vote was peaceful in spite of the negative campaigning. Ideli Salvatti, a top minister in Rousseff's government said that given the closeness of the result the new government would lead a "national conciliation process".
While the economy is not in good shape at present Rousseff's Worker's Party is credited with lifting 40 million Brazilians from poverty since it first came to power in 2003. Even so, Brazil remains a very unequal country. Neves gained support by promising to provide better public services while at the same time promoting a more pro-business agenda. Rousseff managed to convince many that electing Neves would result in a less compassionate and even more unequal Brazil.
Not surprisingly Brazil's financial markets dropped when the polls showed Rousseff would probably win another term. Rousseff had overwhelming support among Brazilians who live in households earning less than $700 a month about 40 per cent of them. A number of government programs have helped this group, including a housing program, government-sponsored vocational training, and an expansion of credit. Liane Lima 62, a secretary in Sao Paulo said: “People without much money have seen their lives improve during recent years.I think we should let Dilma finish what she started.”
 The state-run oil company Petrobas faces serious corruption charges and some of the officials responsible will face prosecution. The economy slipped into recession earlier this year and this will make it difficult to finance social programs. A credit downgrade may be in the works unless Rousseff can cut spending. So far the economic decline has not resulted in high unemployment.
Neves may not survive as leader of the social democratic PSDB party. He has failed to win the last three presidential contests. However, the problem seems to be less that of Neves as a leader than the image of the party as representing Brazil's wealthy minority. Neves promised that he would not scale back the anti-poverty program of Rousseff, but to no avail.
 As often happens, some voters chose what they considered the lesser of two evils. Dingo Bernardo who installs telephone lines in Rio de Janeiro and voted for Dilma Rousseff said: “My life is stable thanks to Dilma’s government,She’s not great, but AĆ©cio would have been worse since he cares less about the rights of working people. I voted for the lesser of two evils.”

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