Jan. 24, 2014, 1:12 p.m.
The following report is based off of a talk hosted by the Elliott School for International Affaris, entitled "Brazil's 2014 Elections."
On October 5, Brazilians will head to the polls to elect a new president, along with new representatives, senators, state governors and state legislators. On one hand, these elections come after an impressive decade of growth and poverty alleviation. 31 million Brazilians were brought out of poverty from 2003 to 2008, during the years of popular president and social spender Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Under Lula’s administration, a system of federal assistance programs was established, including the much lauded Bolsa Família conditional cash transfer initiative. Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, has largely continued these popular programs.
Yet despite this progress, Brazil remains a socially divided society, with decaying infrastructure and unsustainable urban sprawl. Last June, demonstrations over a 50 cent increase in the cost of public transportation spiraled into massive nationwide protests demanding more government accountability and better service delivery. Rousseff’s approval rating decreased significantly during this period of turmoil, though her concessions have allowed her popularity to slowly rebound.
Rousseff stands for reelection in October. Despite the setback last year, she seems poised to win. According to Brazilian journalist and professor Bruno Lima Rocha, who spoke at the Elliott School for International Affairs on January 23, Rousseff’s main strength is the way her coalition has been able to transcend ideological debates and create a broad base of supporters who benefit from her coalition’s social programs. This “class alliance” includes those who receive social income or direct employment from the government, as well as the class of economic interests that stand to gain from more growth and investment. By contrast, Rousseff’s main competitor, Aécio Neves, represents a far more narrow alliance of conservatives and agribusiness. (Eduardo Campos and Marina Silva of the Brazilian Socialist Party may form the more formidable threat, Campos a popular governor in the Northeast and Silva a rags-to-riches story and popular in the urban South.)
To Rocha, the 2013 protests were ultimately an expression of rising expectations and the desire for better implementation of programs than a call for dramatic political change. However, as Brazil hosts the World Cup this summer, many of those grievances may resurface. If anger boils over once more, and Rousseff is forced to quell an uprising under an international spotlight, her opponents may attempt to capitalize on the bad publicity. Nevertheless, barring major upheaval or an unlikely second-round alliance between Neves and Campos, Rousseff will be in a strong position to retake the presidency in October.
(Image Credit: ft.com)