PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – In a few days Brazilians will decide their country’s future – and they may make history by electing the country’s first female president.
Recent polls show Workers’ Party (PT) candidate, Dilma Rousseff, leads the presidential race, as she’s expected to receive more than 50% of the votes when voters cast their ballots on Oct. 3.
Dilma Rousseff, who previously served as President’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s chief of staff, leads a field of nine candidates vying to run South America’s biggest country.
Dilma Rousseff representing the coalition Para o Brasil seguir mudando (In order that Brazil keeps on changing), headed by the PT; José Serra, from the coalition O Brasil pode mais (Brazil can do more), headed by the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, PSDB; and Marina Silva, from the Green Party (PV) are the three leading candidates, polls show.
The polling firms indicate Lula’s successor may be picked in the first round for the first time.
Voters won’t head to the polls for the second time Oct. 31 if one of the candidates obtains the absolute majority of valid votes, which is 50% plus one.
One recent poll, conducted by the Vox Populi institute in partnership with Band TV and iG website, shows Rousseff with 53% of the votes, followed by Serra (23%) and Marina Silva (9%). Ten percent of voters are undecided.
“Not even the recent hail of accusations has changed the last polls,” says political scientist Benedito Tadeu César, referring to the resignation of Lula’s chief of staff Erenice Guerra after allegations surfaced that she received money from a company she hired to work on behalf of the government. Guerra succeeded Dilma Rouseff after working under her before Rousseff resigned to focus on her presidential campaign.
Lula administration’s legacy strengthens Dilma Rousseff’s candidacy
The struggles Lula has endured during his administration have not hurt Dilma Rousseff’s image, as she continues to lead the polls.
“I would risk saying that these accusations hardly affect Dilma [Rousseff],” César says.
A great part of the candidate’s prestige is due to President Lula’s legacy, César says.
“Almost 30 million Brazilians have entered the so-called C class (low middle class) over the past seven years, this is quite significant,” César says, referring to the survey “A Nova Classe Média: O Lado Brilhante dos Pobres” (The New Middle Class: The Shining Side of the Poor), released earlier this month by the GetúlioVargas Foundation.
But Lula’s endorsement and the country’s thriving economy aren’t the only reasons Dilma Rousseff is atop the polls.
“Lula made a good choice: a woman who played an important role in the government,” César says.
Rousseff attracted Lula’s attention in 2002, when she was in Brasília to attend a meeting with the Secretary of Mines and Energy of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
It didn’t take long for her to be appointed Minister of Mines and Energy (2003-2005), chief of staff (2005-2010) and coordinator of the Lula administration’s main programs.
Dilma Rousseff, 62, was born in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, in 1947.
At 16, she was already active in movements against the military regime, which ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. In 1970, she was arrested and tortured. She participated in the so-called Anistia Ampla, Geral e Irrestrita (Wide, General and Unrestricted Amnesty) – a campaign against dictatorship, at the end of the 70’s – and in the movement favoring direct elections for the Presidency in Brazil – The Direct Elections Now – from 1983 to 1984.
Rousseff, an economist, had her first political administrative position in 1986 as the treasury secretary of the city of Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul.
Because of her performance in Lula’s administration, Rousseff is known as the “mother of the Growth Acceleration Program” (PAC), having participated in the country’s major decisions on policies for improving the population’s standard of living, such as the Luz para Todos (Light for Everyone) and Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My Home, My Life) programs.
Dilma Rousseff has promised to keep enhancing the country’s social programs if she’s elected. She plans to increase the funding allocated to the Bolsa-Família program and improve the quality of life nationwide.
Dilma Rousseff also isn’t being hurt in the polls because she’s a woman or because she was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system last year.
“I consider myself totally recovered,” Rousseff said on Aug. 18, according to BBC Brazil, during a debate among the candidates. “Actually, when facing a presidential race, we climb the Everest (mountain) every day. This is a disease against which we can’t have any prejudice. It’s a curable disease.”
Serra and Silva want to force second round
Economist José Serra left the country for 14 years during the military coup of 1964, spending most of the time in Chile.
Serra was mayor of the city of São Paulo, governor of the state of São Paulo and President Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s minister of planning (1995-1996) and health (1998-2002).
But Cardoso’s support isn’t likely to help Serra on Oct. 3.
“Cardoso, despite being a great political scientist and having led an administration with many positive aspects, left his second mandate with low popularity due to the devaluation of the real,” César says.
If elected, Serra may focus on reducing social and economic inequalities.
He promises to extend the social program Bolsa-Família, which provides financial aid to poor families as long as their children attend school, to benefit 15 million households. He also wants to integrate health, educational and citizenship policies into the program.
Bolsa-Família also is included in Marina Silva’s platform. The candidate defends what she calls the “third generation of social programs” – a set of integrated and complementary public policies.
Silva wants to use Bolsa-Família to achieve the “productive inclusion” of poorer Brazilians, focusing on professionalizing education for young people.
Silva, who was born in the so-called Breu Velho community, in the Seringal Bagaço, in the northern state of Acre, relies on her almost 30 years of political leadership as her campaign hallmark.
She was a city councilwoman, state deputy, senator and minister of environment in Lula’s administration (2003-2008), a position she relinquished because of a difference in political opinion.
Brazil’s presidential candidates
Dilma Rousseff Coalition Para o Brasil continuar mudando – In order that Brazil may keep on Changing (Brazilian Republican Party – PRB / Democratic Labor Party – PDT/ Workers’ Party – PT; Brazilian Democratic Movement Party – PMDB / National Labor Party – PTN / Christian Social Party – PSC / Republic’s Party – PR / Christian Labor Party – PTC / Brazilian Socialist Party – PSB / Communist Party of Brazil – PC do B)
Ivan Pinheiro Brazilian Communist Party (PCB)
Levy Fidelix Brazilian Renewal Labor Party (PRTB)
José Maria de Almeida Unified Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU)
José Maria Eymael Christian Social Democratic Party (PSDC)
José Serra Coalition O Brasil pode mais – Brazil can do more (Brazilian Labor Party – PTB/ Popular Socialist Party – PPS / Democratic Party – DEM / National Mobilization Party – PMN / Brazilian Social Democracy Party – PSDB / Workers’ Party of Brazil – PT do B)
Marina Silva Green Party (PV)
Plínio de Arruda Sampaio Party of Socialism and Liberty (Psol)
Rui Pimenta Workers’ Cause Party (PCO)
Source: Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court)