“President Dilma Rousseff emerged on Sunday as the front-runner in one of the most tightly contested presidential elections since democracy was re-established in Brazil in the 1980s,” reports Simon Romero for The New York Times. However, “she failed to win a majority of the vote, opening the way for a runoff with Aécio Neves, the pro-business scion of a powerful political family.” What’s so special about this election? Well, whoever wins will be running what was, until recently, “Latin America’s colossus,” according to David Biller of Bloomberg View. “Brazil’s economic growth has slowed to its weakest three-year pace in a decade, advancing just 2.1 percent on average from 2011 through 2013,” he explains. “In the first half of 2014, it entered technical recession. The currency has fallen 33 percent since President Dilma Rousseff rose to power in 2011. Business confidence in July reached the lowest level in more than a decade. Sovereign debt was downgraded on March 24 for the first time in that period.”
This heightens the stakes for Ms. Rousseff, whose opponent, Mr. Neves, has built a campaign platform on pro-business, pro-economic growth policies. Ms. Rousseff’s Workers Party, critics say, has stalled the country’s once meteoric rise through a combination of “tax burden, the bureaucracy and steep tariffs.” Reducing these would “boost investment,” Mr. Biller reports, while “more flexible labor laws would improve productivity” — all hallmark’s of Mr. Neves’s campaign.
A campaign many observers did not think would survive as long as it has. Until recently, Mr. Neves trailed third in polls — far behind Ms. Rousseff and Marina Silva, of the Socialist Party. Ms. Silva, an Afro-Brazilian environmentalist from the poor, far-western state of Acre, was expected to give Ms. Rousseff a run for her money. As Jeffrey W. Rubin wrote for Reuters a few days before the election: “The face of power in Brazil is becoming ever more diverse. The top two candidates in Brazil’s presidential race on Sunday are both leftists and women, one of whom is black,” and continued, “the private sector’s preferred candidate, a white man from Brazil’s once-dominant center-right party, trails in the polls.”
Had Ms. Silva and Ms. Rousseff emerged neck and neck, the subsequent runoff would be a choice between “competing progressive agendas,” leaving the country’s industrialist subset “without a serious contender for the first time since the country’s transition to democracy in 1985.”
Full Article: What an Election Year Looks Like in Brazil – NYTimes.com.