Rousseff Closer to Reelection After First Voting Round

Brazil’s president looks more likely to be reelected but still has to see off a centrist challenger next month.

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil attends a news event in Curitiba, May 9
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil attends a news event in Curitiba, May 9 (Blog do Planalto/Roberto Stuckert Filho)

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, looked more likely to win reelection after winning almost 42 percent support in a first voting round on Sunday. But she has yet to see off a challenger, Aécio Neves, in a runoff next month if she is remain in power for four more years.

Neves, a senator and former state governor from the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party, came in second, with 33.6 percent support, kicking the environmentalist Marina Silva from the Socialist Party out of the race. If her supporters back Neves in the second voting round in late October, Rousseff could yet fail to win reelection.

Both opposition candidates had made campaign promises to return to more liberal economic policies they said Rousseff has abandoned, including strict budget and inflation targets.

But despite disillusionment with Rousseff’s inability to deliver higher growth and better public services, which fueled mass protests a year ago, many Brazilians backed her Workers’ Party. It has lifted more than thirty million out of poverty through generous social welfare spending and expanded trade.

During the boom years under Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, former president Lula da Silva, soaring commodity exports to China helped the economy grow more than 4 percent per year on average.

However, the economy dipped into recession last quarter and is on track to grow less than 2 percent by the end of Rousseff’s term in December. Structural reforms to improve Brazil’s competitiveness have stalled. Taxes are burdensome and infrastructure investments have been lackluster.

Rousseff’s administration has been prone to interventionism in attempt to stave off weaker growth, ordering state banks to slash lending rates and raising taxes on foreign borrowing to drive down the exchange rate of the real — policies that harken back to the years before Social Democracy Party president Fernando Henrique Cardoso embarked on a program of comprehensive liberalization in the late 1990s that ultimately saw Brazil briefly overtake the United Kingdom as the sixth largest economy in the world in 2011.