Paulo Sotero – Brazil Institute, 10/27/2014
A narrow victory after a divisive campaign leaves a weakened leader with few options to revive Brazil’s slowing economy
President Dilma Rousseff’s narrow reelection last Sunday gave her a political victory without a clear political mandate. A highly negative and bruising campaign marked by personal attacks and allegations of corruption exchanged between Rousseff and her challenger, senator Aécio Neves, left a divided and angered public wondering whether the government and the opposition, which includes the vast majority of the business community, will be able to reconcile their differences and work together to reignite a paralyzed economy and put Brazil back on a more promising path than it has been on in recent years.
Rousseff received 51.65% of the votes, or 54.5 million, against Neves’ 48.69%, or 51 million, in the narrowest victory by a candidate in the seven presidential elections Brazil has held since the 1980s. Her triumph became clear only after 80% of the votes were counted.
Speaking to supporters, she said she did not believe the elections had left the country divided and called for dialogue. “Sometimes in history, tighter election results produce stronger and faster changes than ample victories,” she said, expressing hope that this will be the case in Brazil. In her victory speech, Rousseff promised to be “a better president” in her second term and move aggressively to promote a political reform she first proposed but failed to advance after the massive street protests of June 2013. It is improbable, however, that the proposal will be welcomed in Congress, where Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has lost ground and will have to deal with stronger and more demanding partners in the PMDB.
Paulo Sotero is the director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Rede Brasil Atual.