Brazil’s Presidential Election Heads to Oct. 31 Runoff

BY Larisa Epatko  October 4, 2010 at 2:35 PM EST


Presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff. Photo by Jefferson Bernardes/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil’s ruling party candidate, Dilma Rousseff, won the most votes in Sunday’s presidential election but not enough to avoid a runoff with second-place contender Jose Serra on Oct. 31.

Rousseff, a former Marxist guerilla and chief of staff for outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, garnered 47 percent of the vote to opposition candidate Serra’s 33 percent.

Rousseff had a strong showing in the polls leading up to the election, but faltered following allegations that one of her former aides was involved in a kickback scheme for public projects. The allegations followed another scandal in which the ruling Workers’ Party purportedly illegally accessed bank records, Reuters reported.

“Of course we cannot limit the reasons for her losses to only one thing but this corruption scandal was certainly her most acute problem,” said Claudio Couto, a political scientist at the Brazilian-based think tank Getulio Vargas Foundation, quoted the BBC.

Green Party candidate Marina Silva, a former environmental minister in Lula’s government, won 19 percent of the vote on Sunday, and is now being sought by Rousseff and Serra for support.

“This is an election that seems to have cemented Marina Silva as a national political figure,” said Erik German, a GlobalPost correspondent based in Rio de Janeiro.
“Her performance here indicates that she’ll have to be taken seriously as a political force.”

Many were surprised at how much traction Silva got with the Brazilian electorate, German continued. “The general analysis seems to be that as a third-party candidate, if she was stealing votes from anybody, she was stealing votes from Dilma Rousseff.”

Rousseff, who was hand-picked by the current president, did not seem to have the charisma necessary for an easy first-round win, German said. But, he added, it is also notable that as popular as Lula is, he never won in the first round either.

As for Lula potentially running again in the future, he told The Economist in a Sept. 9 interview that he couldn’t say yes, “because when the next election comes, I’ll be 68 years old.”

“At 68, the years weigh on you. If I get Dilma elected and she is good, she’ll have to be a candidate for re-election. There’s no sense, if she’s good, in saying: ‘No, it’s not going to be you, I’m coming back.’ If she’s good, she has the right to be the presidential candidate again, and I’ll work for her election. So I don’t want to make any forecasts,” Lula said.