In Brazil, political analysts are trying to explain why Brazilian presidential elections went sour for Dilma Rousseff and her mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the most popular president of the country in the last six decades.
Most public opinion polls indicated that Dilma would have the sufficient ballots to garner over 50% in the first round, October 31, thus avoiding the end of the month run-off.
Besides, no poll anticipated the excellent showing of Marina Silva and the Greens with almost 20% of the vote, the strongest third-party performance in any presidential elections since democracy was restored to Brazil in 1985.
Several reasons are pointed out for the four percentage points short of Sunday: the corruption scandal right at the heart of president Lula’s administration, which forced Erenice Guerra, Dilma Rousseff’s replacement as Cabinet chief, to resign.
The arrogance of the “we’ve already won” attitude with which the Lula team approached the final run-up of the campaign, along with the aggression against the Brazilian press with the accusations of “partisan” bias.
Last but not least, Dilma’s bunker lacked answers to a heavy opposition Internet attack linking the presidential hopeful to a pro-choice policy on abortion, which cost her votes of Catholics and especially Protestants.
The almost 20 million votes garnered by the ecologist candidate show that two Brazilians out of every 10 would rather not choose between the favorite Dilma and Serra. Results in the Federal District of Brasília in particular (41.9% for Marina as against 31.7% for Dilma and 24.3% for Serra) symbolize the angry wake-up call which a sector of the electorate would like to deliver to Lula’s government.
Besides Marina not only is an evangelical Christian but also as Lula’s Environment minister until she resigned in 2008, clashed quite often with then Cabinet Chief Rousseff, particularly over policies involving the development of the Amazon basin.
“I would highly value Marina’s support but that doesn’t mean she needs to support me,” Rousseff told a news conference in Brasília after meeting members of her coalition. “We have more in common than differences.”
Analysts said that while the race would tighten if Serra scoops up Silva’s votes, Rousseff remained the strong favorite, barring any bombshells such as new corruption scandals.
In any event the runoff battle will be mainly concentrated in the southeastern states where Serra ran strongest while Dilma suffered her biggest disappointments. However a future Rousseff government already has a Senate majority assured.
According to the results, pro-Dilma parties won 39 of the 54 Senate seats at stake (20 for the PMDB, 15 for the PT and four for the PP), thus giving her the necessary overall majority in the Senate (around 56 of the total 81 seats) to halt the special investigatory commissions (CPIs) with which the opposition threatens to harass the government.
Dilma’s (and Lula’s) task in the coming weeks will be to win back those members of the new middle class who at the last moment turned their backs on her and caused her voting intentions to dip three points.
Serra, alleging that her Green Party has been allied to the PSDB state government in São Paulo as well as joining forces with that party in Rio de Janeiro anticipated a possible understanding but Marina’s first reaction was that she would not be endorsing either Serra or Dilma and that her voters should make up their minds according to which of the two seems closer to the campaign proposals of her ecologist party. She has also ruled out a seat in any Rousseff Cabinet.
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