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BRAZIL
Dilma Rousseff still the favorite
José Pedro Martins
9/23/2010
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Elections full of firsts approach for Brazilians.

The 135 million Brazilians go to the polls on the Oct. 3 presidential elections, the sixth vote since the end of the 1964-84 military dictatorship, will mark a new chapter in the country´s history, regardless of the winner.

For the first time, there are two presidential candidates who were active dissidents against the two-decade dictatorship: frontrunner Dilma Rousseff, of the ruling Workers´ Party, who joined armed rebels against the military regime, and José Serra of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, a former student leader who had been living in exile in Chile.

There are also two women on the ballot, with Rousseff and Sen. Marina Silva of the Green Party.

Rousseff, who is backed by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is largely expected to cruise to a win, possibly in the first round. According to a Sept. 17 Ibope poll, Rousseff had 51 percent voter support, compared with 25 percent for Serra, while Silva trailed with 11 percent.

Silva has run on a strong environmental platform, advocating sustainable development and greater protection of the Amazon Rainforest, which holds 12 percent of the world´s fresh water, a first for Brazil, even though she is trailing the other candidates.

What is clear is that Lula´s popularity has significantly benefited Rousseff, who would become Brazil´s first female president, as the former labor leader is departing with an approval rating of more than 70 percent, thanks to the country´s booming economy and expanded social programs.

A second round runoff will be held on Oct. 31 if no candidate captures 51 50 percent plus one of the votes.

Regional vote
Brazilians will also elect 26 state governors, 54 of the 81 senators, and 513 federal representatives, as well as state legislators.

This means key votes in some of the country´s richest and most populous states, where Lula-backed incumbents are leading in Rio de Janeiro with current Gov. Sérgio Cabral Filho, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement; in Bahia with Workers´ Party Gov. Jaques Wagner; in Pernambuco with Gov. Eduardo Campos of the Brazilian Socialist Party, and in Rio Grande do Sul with newcomer Workers´ Party candidate Tarso Genro.

But opposition candidates are ahead in São Paulo and Minas Gerais with Geraldo Alckmin, who lost the 2006 presidential to Lula, and Antônio Anastasia, both from Serra´s party.

Despite Rousseff´s clear lead, no candidate is expected to have complete control over Brazilian policies, and will force the new president to form a coalition with like-minded parties, which is nothing new since Brazil´s 1989 presidential election.

Clean elections, please
Social movements and religious organizations have demanded for transparent and clean elections.

On Sept. 16, the influential National Council of Brazilian Bishops called for strict adherence to the “Clean Record” law, which came into force in early June, and bans politicians from running for office if they have been convicted of corruption. Several candidates had their candidacy voided under the law, though they are allowed to appeal.

“Electoral campaigns are an opportunity for everyone to reflect upon what should be put forth responsibly and what needs to be changed for a national project with popular participation,” said the council´s president Mons. Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, the bishop of Mariana in Minas Gerais.
—Latinamerica Press.


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Dilma Rousseff could become Brazil´s first female president. (Photo: www.dilma13.com.br)
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