Challenges face Brazil's Rousseff after winning re-election

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil won a second term Sunday night, defeating Aecio Neves. Now, she must turn her attention to the nation's economic future.

Eraldo Peres/AP
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff blows kisses to supporters as she celebrates her victory at a hotel in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Official results showed Sunday that President Rousseff defeated opposition candidate Aecio Neves of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, and was re-elected Brazil's president.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was re-elected by the narrowest margin in three decades, handing her left-leaning Workers' Party its weakest mandate as it confronts some of the country's biggest challenges in years.

After scraping by with 51.6 percent of the vote in a runoff against center-right challenger Aecio Neves on Sunday, Rousseff spoke of national reconciliation as she seeks to restart a stagnant economy, push political reform through a fragmented congress where she now has less support, and respond to widespread popular demands to improve woeful public services. These frustrations sparked angry street demonstrations just a year ago.

In her victory speech, Rousseff said "dialogue" was the first promise for her second term — but it remains to be seen how much the opposition will cede to her ideas of a statist economy given that growth has stalled, though she has managed to keep unemployment at record lows.

The president said she understood demands for a more efficient, less corrupt government.

"That's why I want to be a much better president than I have been until now," she said after the election results were announced.

During the Workers' Party time in power, the government has enacted expansive social programs that have helped pull millions of Brazilians out of poverty and into the middle class, transforming the lives of the poor.

But the globe's seventh-largest economy has underperformed since 2011, with some fearing it could put the social gains at risk.

"Dilma has social inclusion on her side, but the macroeconomic policies during her first four years in office have been very weak," said Carlos Pereira, a political analyst at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil's leading think tank. "Inflation has returned, the country is in a technical recession and public spending is out of control. It is less likely she will be able to offer social inclusion and macroeconomic stability at the same time."

The choice between Rousseff and Neves split Brazilians into two camps — those who thought only the president would continue to protect the poor and advance social inclusion versus those who were certain that only the contender's market-friendly economic policies could see Brazil return to solid growth.

Rousseff and Neves fought bitterly to convince voters that they could deliver on both growth and social advances. This year's campaign was widely considered the most acrimonious since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985, a battle between the only two parties to have held the presidency since 1995.

Neves hammered at Rousseff over a widening kickback scandal Petrobras, with an informant telling investigators that the Workers' Party directly benefited from the scheme.

Rousseff rejected those allegations and told Brazilians that a vote for Neves would be support for returning Brazil to times of intense economic turbulence, hyperinflation and high unemployment, which the nation encountered when the Social Democrats last held power.

"We've worked so hard to better the lives of the people, and we won't let anything in this world, not even in this crisis or all the pessimism, take away what they've conquered," Rousseff said before voting in southern Brazil.

In Brazil's biggest city of Sao Paulo, thousands of Workers' Party supporters gathered on a main avenue, waving banners as a truck with giant speakers blasted Rousseff's campaign jingles.

"I'm very happy because I think the construction of Brazil has barely begun and now we will have continuity," said Liliane Viana, a retired federal government worker. "I was afraid we were going to move backward. Now I am extremely excited."

Neves was a two-term governor in Minas Gerais state who left office in 2010 with a 92 percent approval rating. He surged at the end of the presidential race to score a surprise second-place position and force a runoff vote against Rousseff.

Speaking from his hometown of Belo Horizonte, he thanked the "more than 50 million Brazilians" who voted for him.

"I will be eternally grateful to each and every one of you who allowed me to dream again of the construction of a new project," he said. "I fought the good fight. I fulfilled my mission and I kept the faith."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Challenges face Brazil's Rousseff after winning re-election
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2014/1027/Challenges-face-Brazil-s-Rousseff-after-winning-re-election
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe