Why Dilma Should Look Back to Her Bases in Brazil’s Runoff Election

Source: NACLA Report on the Americas

The outcome of the Brazilian presidential election of October 5 was much as it was predicted to be two months before. Because Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent, of the Workers Party (PT), won less than 50% of the vote, she will face Aécio Neves, of the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), in a runoff on October 26.

But there were many surprises in between. The election campaign was upended several times. Until 16 months ago, Dilma’s reelection was taken for granted. (The two candidates, like most politicians in Brazil, are always referred to just by their first names. Here we will follow the Brazilian example.) But the urban uprising of June 2013 revealed a level of popular discontent that had gone unrecognized. Protest was predicted to burst out again when the World Cup competition was played there in June and July, but turned out to be muted in soccer-mad Brazil, even when the national team suffered an ignominious defeat, 7-1, against Germany in the semifinals.

Then, less than two months before the election, the third-ranked candidate, Eduardo Campos of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), died in a plane crash, and his place at the top of the ticket was taken by his running mate, Marina Silva. Marina, who was much better known and more popular than Campos, surged to second place in the polls and appeared to have a real chance of defeating Dilma in a runoff. But in the days before the election, Marina’s support collapsed. In the final tally, Dilma won 42%, Aécio 34%, and Marina 21%.

The runoff now sets up a clear choice between the two candidates whose views and programs are most polarized, and the two parties that have dominated presidential politics for the last twenty years. As president, Dilma has extended the progress the previous PT administration made in social welfare, active economic intervention, and national independence. Aécio and the PSDB, on the other hand, promise a return to past free-market policies and willing subordination to the dictates of the United States. The election is being avidly watched by the right wing throughout the hemisphere, eager to see signs of ebbing of the “pink tide” that brought progressive governments into several countries of the region in the last decade and a half.

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