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Rousseff wins first round of Brazil election
October 6, 2014, 2:14 am

Incumbent Dilma Rousseff is expected to comfortably beat Aécio Neves in the second round of elections on October 26 [Xinhua]

Incumbent Dilma Rousseff is expected to comfortably beat Aécio Neves in the second round of elections on October 26 [Xinhua]


Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff comfortably won Brazil’s first round of voting with 41.6 per cent Sunday, but did not attract enough voters to avoid a second round, in which she will face centrist Aécio Neves.

A late surge by Social Democracy Party candidate Neves saw him overtake environmentalist Marina Silva of the Socialist Party in the final days of the race, taking second place with 33.6 per cent to Silva’s 21.3 per cent.

The election has been an exceptionally dramatic one: Silva entered the election only after former-PSB candidate Eduardo Campos was killed when his campaign plane crashed.

With a powerful backstory that appealed to voters dissatisfied with the status quo, the former rubber tapper and environmental activist quickly surged ahead of Neves and stayed there until just days ago.

“Marina is the best option to renovate and oxygenate our society,” said Jaque Mesquita, physiotherapist, 47, after casting a vote for Silva. “She is focused on the sectors that are the most deficient, currently – health and environmental protection.”

But a series of focused attack ads by Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT), as well as some missteps in her campaign, took their toll on Silva.

“This was a result of the weaknesses of her campaign, which failed to be a compelling alternative neither for the most conservative sectors nor for those seeking a more alternative to the left of the PT government,” said Sonia Fleury, a political scientist from the Getulio Vargas Foundation. “This was all exploited by her opponents.”

Rousseff had consistently lead in the polls, but many voters were attracted by Neves’ economic policies and solid record as a former senator and governor of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second most populous state.

As governor, he had cut government spending and increased investment in the state.

“Aecio is, I believe, the only one of the candidates that can solve the economic and financial problems in Brazil,” said Luciana Coutinho, 42, a lawyer, after she voted in Brasília today. “He has much more experience than the others.”

Coutinho said that the decisive moment for her came during a debate between the three, when Neves laid out his plans for the economy without any notes.

“He had it all in his head,” she said.

Economic savior?

Marcos Troyjo, director of Columbia University’s BRICLab, predicts that Brazil’s economy would improve, and investors and markets would react well, to a Neves presidency.

“I think we would move swiftly back to the so-called macroeconomic tripod – inflation targeting, fiscal responsibility and a floating exchange rate regime,” Troyjo explained. “We would also see in action a fierce willingness to work on the structural reforms, which must be the country’s top priority as of 1 January 2015.”

Despite Neves’ fiscal appeal, many voters saw in Rousseff a stability and track record that a new candidate could not match, and voted to re-elect her for a further four years.

“We need to maintain stability, and continue the projects that she started, opening the ports, privatising the airports, increasing mobility and generally improving infrastructure,” said Hermano Carvalho, 52, a civil engineer. “She’s been a good president,” he added.

Rousseff and Neves will now go head-to-head on October 26, three weeks from now. The most recent survey by polling firm Datafolha predicts that Rousseff would beat Neves in a second round with 48 per cent to 42 per cent.

By Lucy Jordan for The BRICS Post in Brasilia, Brazil

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