It’s Time to Pay Attention to Brazil’s Presidential Election

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Picture Via Agence France-Presse

There is something important happening in Brazil and it has nothing to do with obsolete World Cup stadiums or the upcoming Olympic Games. Brazil is set to hold the first round of elections for their president and thousands of legislative seats on Sunday.

142.8 million voters will head to the polls on Sunday to cast their compulsory ballots, as every Brazilian citizens must vote in every election. This is a critical election not only to Brazil, but also to the rest of the globe as the world’s seventh largest economy makes a decision that will certainly impact its future direction. The current frontrunners, incumbent Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva, are in a dead heat for the lead according to recent polls released over the weekend. Although some polls are showing Rousseff still hanging on to a lead she established for herself early in the campaign. But Silva is not far behind.

The Incumbent

Beside holding the presidency, Rousseff sits at the head of the leftist Worker’s Party. President Rousseff has faced a roller coaster presidency that included a downturn in the economy, a debatably successful World Cup and protests throughout the country, which heavily criticized her administration.

Rousseff has a more uphill battle this year compared to her victory in 2010. For example, last month it was announced that Brazil had entered a recession. After months of protesting, corruption and mismanagement, Rousseff’s government continued to stay in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. However, Rousseff is a product of the Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva government who left office on a high note after unprecedented economic activity was achieved under his watch. Rousseff, who served as Lula’s Chief of Staff and was said to be hand selected to succeed Lula, rode in on his coattails and has since gained popularity of her own.

The New Star

Marina Silva is the star of the Socialist party throughout Brazil, rising to prominence from her activist work in the international environment field and development. Both of which are hot button issues throughout Brazil as the rapidly growing and developing country faces growing pains. Silva has been compared to Barack Obama throughout her campaign as she has the star power some Brazilians have been looking for. Silva was raised in a poor village in the Amazon and has worked her way from the bottom up, just like much of Brazil’s middle class. If elected Silva, will be the first Afro-Brazilian to hold the office of the president.

Silva’s back-story does not end there. She has served as Minister of the Environment and she ran for President in 2010 under the Green party, placing in third. And today, she is only one of the candidates in this election because her former running mate, Edward Campos, died in an airplane crash in August. Yes you read that correctly. One of the front-runners in the Brazilian presidential election died in a plane crash without much of the outside world noticing. But after recovering from the loss of her colleague, Silva has launched a successful campaign that has kept her and the Socialist party in the game.

However, it is possible that Silva will run into roadblocks as the Socialist Party is small with only 33 members currently serving in the Brazilian legislature. Rousseff has been quick to harp on this fact, and criticizes Silva for not having a large political base to support her. Concerns of inactivity and stalled politics are valid.

Looking Ahead

While both candidates are stars in their own right, it’s interesting to note that both frontrunners are female, an unlikely situation in the next US Presidential election or other Western elections. Not to mention this will more then likely be the second time Brazil has a female president. This is certainly a point of pride for the advancement of women in politics across the globe.

The interest abroad also stems from the economic output of Brazil. Eyes will be on the South American country as it makes a decision that will impact stock and bond markets around the word as well as the future of the growing nation.

The second round of voting will occur on October 26th, so there is still time for the tables to turn again. It’s certainly possible that polls will continue to show a tug of war between the candidates before the final vote is cast. Although one thing is for certain, this entertaining, emotional, and critical election should be capturing the world’s attention.

 

About Melaine Furey

Melanie Furey is a research professional from Cleveland currently working abroad in Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica. Most recently Melanie worked as US Senator George V. Voinovich's Research Coordinator where she carried out several research projects on topics including the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War, diversity in the United States and American political parties. Now Melanie works as a teacher and is conducting independent research on US foreign policy, Costa Rica and Central American issues and other related topics while abroad. Melanie holds a B.A. in Economics from Allegheny College and a Masters Degree in International Relations from Cleveland State University.
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