Paulo Sotero – Brazil Institute, 10/06/2014
Marina Silva, signaling support for the president’s opponent, could be the king maker
President Dilma Rousseff failed to secure an absolute majority of votes in the first ballot of Brazil’s elections and will face senator Aécio Neves, a popular former governor of the state of Minas Gerais, in a final round scheduled for Sunday October 26. Rousseff received 41.5% of the record 115 million votes cast, a weaker performance compared to the votes she received and thather predecessor President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received in the first round of the previous three presidential election won by the Workers Party (PT). Neves, of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB) of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, surged in the final week of the campaign to obtain 33.5% of the votes and position himself as a strong challenger to Rousseff. Former senator Marina Silva, an environmentalist who led for a while in opinion polls, finished a distant third with 21.3% but may be the deciding voice in the race’s outcome.
Speaking to supporters Sunday evening, Marina, who remained neutral in 2010 when she ran for the Green Party and also came in third, indicated she will endorse Neves’ candidacy. “Brazil has signaled since 2010 it clearly disagrees with what we have,” she said, referring to the rule of the Workers’ Party, which was her political home for more than a quarter century.
Rousseff won in fifteen of Brazil’s 27 states, including in Neves’ Minas Gerais, by a narrow margin. Analysts attributed this result, however, more to the popularity of the Workers’ Party candidate for state governor, Fernando Pimentel, a former mayor of the capital city of Belo Horizonte, than to Rousseff’s performance. In September, Pimentel’s campaign removed the president’s picture from his ads, fearing the association with Rousseff would reduce his favoritism. The PSDB gubernatorial candidate , João Pimenta da Veiga, a dull politician, did not generate much enthusiasm among voters. In contrast, Neves’ campaign manager, former two-term governor Antonio Anastasia, was easily elected to the Senate, beating Josué Alencar , by a two to one margin. A close ally of Rousseff, Alencar is the son of the late vice-president of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government.
Paulo Sotero is the Director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
*Photo courtesy of Flickr users PSDB MG and Joao de Bourbon.