Last weekend I was very eager to power up my computer to find out the result of the Brazilian elections which had taken place on Sunday. It was no surprise to learn that the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff of the Brazilian Working Party (PT) had failed to secure enough votes to win outright and consequently the election for President of Brazil will go to a second round, to be held on 26 October.
I was surprised though, to discover that former Environment Minister, Marina Silva came in third and as such will not contest the run off against Dilma later in the month. Instead it will be Aécio Neves, from the Brazil Social Democrat Party who will go into this contest.
So far the battle for the Brazilian Presidency has resembled one of Brazil’s famous telenovelas and has made fascinating viewing. Two months ago, Dilma Rousseff enjoyed a 16% advantage over her rivals. Despite a flat lining economy a second term seemed inevitable. Then on 13 August one of the presidential candidates, Eduardo Campos, was tragically killed in a plane crash and everything changed. His number two, Marina Silva assumed the role of candidate for the PSB party and was now running for president. A stout evangelist and strong environmental campaigner, Marina supposedly had strong support across the country and offered something quite different to the other front runners.
By the end of August, one poll had Marina tied with Dilma and Neves some twenty percentage points behind. The prospect of Brazil’s first black president and the world’s first green premier seemed like a real possibility. But then came the fight back. The following weeks saw a tirade of negative campaigning by Dilma against Marina Silva, while Neves quietly carried on the campaign trail. Ultimately Marina had insufficient advertising space to compete with Dilma since in Brazil political advertising time share is distributed proportionally among parties to reflect the number of deputies elected in the previous election. Dilma argued that Marina Silva had insufficient political experience to govern such a large country and manage the complex coalitions of parties that result post-election.
Here in the UK, the current Lib Dem-Tory coalition is my first taste of coalition politics. But this is mainstay in Brazil. There are over 30 registered political parties and Dilma’s current coalition contains ten of these. Voting in Brazil is a complex business and it is also compulsory with fines for voters that aren’t able to justify not visiting the ballot box. Brazil also uses electronic voting meaning that the main results were announced before 8pm on the same day.
I personally would have loved to see Marina elected. For WWF it is vitally important that we work with all political parties. For the 2014 elections WWF-Brazil produced an election manifesto of their own, which sets out a collection of concrete political actions that we are asking politicians to adopt in order to achieve universal clean water, food and sustainable energy for all. And what needs to be done to protect, restore and sustainably use Brazil’s forests and conserve its rich biodiversity. We strongly believe that economic growth is possible without the need to degrade our environment.
So it is back to the campaign trail now for Ms Rousseff and Mr Neves and right now it seems too close to call. Expect further twists and turns and accusations of corruption and fraud. And Marina’s job is not done yet either as many of her supporters will be looking now to see which one of the two candidates she endorses. While this telenovela didn’t have a romantic ending it still promises an explosive finish.
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