Monday, November 1, 2010

"Iron Lady" Dilma wins Brazilian presidential elections

In an election pitting “change” versus “more of the same” a majority of the Brazilian electorate opted for the latter.

Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker’s Party (PT, in Portuguese) won in the second round of brazil’s presidential elections over center-right candidate Jose Serra. Polls in the days ahead of Sunday’s vote indicated a double-digit lead for Rousseff and they proved to be accurate as she won by a twelve-point margin.

Rousseff vowed to continue the economic and political policies of the highly popular outgoing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “I know I will honor this legacy and extend his work," she said in her victory speech last night while also vowing to prioritize gender equality. Perhaps acknowledging critiques by Serra and some of Lula’s opponents over the economy, Rousseff reiterated her promise to “eradicate poverty” throughout Brazil.

Several news reports mentioned that Rousseff was a “former Marxist guerrilla” during the military dictatorship decades ago yet she also served as former energy minister and chief of staff under Lula.

Rousseff is not expected to radically alter Brazil’s economic policies. Investors seem to be pleased with her victory, for instance, with the Bovespa stock index rising in early trading and up by at least 850 points in the early afternoon.

On the political front Rousseff will seek to take advantage of a legislative majority led by the PT to push through more socially inclusive politics. Yet she will also have to patch up differences with evangelicals turned off with her views on topics like abortion and who subsequently sided with Serra. Rousseff will also have to appeal to voters in states like Goias and Rondonia whose majorities help reelect Lula four years ago but instead turned to Serra on Sunday.

Council on Foreign Relations fellow Julia Sweig identified what could be expected of a Rousseff presidency on a foreign policy level, especially in relation to two key global players:
Watch Brazil's relationship with the United States and China. Crafting a strategy for these two countries looms large on Brasilia's foreign policy agenda for different reasons--a distracted White House in the first case, and the centrality and competition that Beijing represents to the Brazilian economy, in the second.
Upon being inaugurated on January 1st, Rousseff will become Brazil’s first female president and the third current female head of state in Latin America.

Aside from her supporters her victory was also celebrated halfway around the world in Bulgaria, the country where her father emigrated from before settling in Belo Horizonte.

Image- The Sofia Echo
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, The Sofia Echo, The Telegraph, The Economist, Council on Foreign Relations, Bloomberg

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