Brazil’s ongoing presidential election has been described as electrifying and unpredictable, suitable for a telenovela. To be sure, there has been no shortage of high drama: the tragic, accidental death of a major candidate, the spectacular rise and fall of his vice presidential pick who took his place, and the late surge of a candidate who most pundits not long ago had written off. Given the volatility, few dare predict with confidence what will happen in the Oct. 26 runoff between incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT) and former Minas Gerais governor Aécio Neves of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB). To add to the excitement, the second round has been cast by the two remaining candidates and their respective supporters as an ideological battle that pits left (Rousseff) versus right (Neves). According to the Neves camp, Rousseff would continue the state-interventionist, protectionist policies she pursued during her first term, which have led to inflation and an economic slowdown, while Neves would embrace more market-friendly approaches and would open Brazil to the world, including the United States. Rousseff, in turn, accuses Neves of proposing an economic program that serves the bankers and industrialists, while planning to cut back popular welfare programs that have made Brazil more equal and middle-class.
Rousseff and Neves spent most of their three face-to-face debates trading charges of corruption and nepotism (though the third had a less bitter tone). Despite the bitterness of the campaign, however, the platforms of the two candidates are remarkably similar. (More than a sharply drawn ideological clash, the divisions are more like those between Old Labour and New Labour in Britain.) Both want growth and stability, poverty reduction, better public services, and more infrastructure. Both have called for improved relations with Washington.
The negative campaigning on both sides appears to have had a considerable impact on Brazilian voters. Headlines in every newspaper this month blared Rousseff’s accusation that Neves and his party’s exploitation of the latest corruption scandal was designed to foment a coup against her government. Neves had said that Rousseff’s party was guilty of “handing the country’s largest company over to a gang of thieves.” In the first debate, Rousseff went on the attack, charging Neves with using public money for personal gain when he was appointed director of the Federal Savings Bank by his cousin in the 1980s. Rousseff claims that when Neves was governor of Minas Gerais, public health deteriorated in the state, while Neves says that Rousseff’s government has lost the capacity to attract investment.
Full Article: Brazil’s Election Illusion.