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Zbigniew Iwanowski

Doctor of Political Science, Director of Center for Political Studies of the RAS Institute of Latin America, Professor of Global Processes Department at Lomonosov Moscow State University, RIAC expert

The general election became the main event of 2014 in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won a second term in Brazil’s presidential election, but she faces many challenges and problems that were not resolved during her first term. The altered balance of forces will inevitably force the head of state to make adjustments to an established model of development while maintaining continuity in domestic and foreign policy.

The general election became the main event of 2014 in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff won a second term in Brazil’s presidential election, but she faces many challenges and problems that were not resolved during her first term. The altered balance of forces will inevitably force the head of state to make adjustments to an established model of development while maintaining continuity in domestic and foreign policy.

Socio-economic and political background

The general election in 2014 in Brazil took place amidst domestic political controversy. Successful social policies were the main achievement of Dilma Rousseff’s first presidency (2011-2014), as well as of her popular predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010). Due to numerous social programs during the years in power, the Workers' Party (Portuguese: Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) managed to reduce poverty, and more than 40 of the 200 million Brazilians joined the ranks of the middle class [1]. During the crisis, the rate of unemployment, part-time employment and inflation has remained relatively low (5.4 per cent, 1.8 per cent and 5.9 per cent, respectively). According to the data from March 2014, by the end of 2013, real wages increased by 2.7 per cent, the annual increase of the minimum wage amounted to 1 per cent in real terms, and the increase in the average wage was 3.9 per cent. Economic instability and the decline in GDP growth (7.5 per cent in 2010-; 2.7 per cent in 2011; 1.0 per cent in 2012 and 2.5 per cent in 2013) [2] compared with the beginning of the first presidential term of Dilma Rousseff, happened to be the most unfavorable macroeconomic indicators. According to forecasts, in 2014, the economy will grow by only 0.2 per cent, and in 2015, it is expected to stagnate (0 per cent), while inflation will rise to 7 per cent [3].

Despite the positive developments, a considerable part of the population, especially the middle class, is dissatisfied with the poor quality of education and public health and the high price of public transport and other services. Mass protests, caused unreasonable expenditures on such mega projects as the FIFA World Cup 2014 and preparations for the 2016 Olympics reached their peak in June 2013 and repeated themselves in the summer of 2014. The situation worsened after the grand failure of the Brazilian soccer team. (According to a poll conducted in June 2014 by the American PEW Research Center, 61 per cent of respondents were opposed to the World Cup) [4].

Although most of the favelas (slums in Brazil) were “cleaned up” during the preparations for the international sporting event, the level of violence and organized crime is still high. According to recent figures, annually 25.2 murders per 100 thousand of population are committed, which in absolute numbers amounts to about 56,000 people [5]. Numerous corruption scandals involving the government, the ruling party and the state oil company Petrobras, which was accused of money laundering and misuse of resources, have added oil to the fire. The opposition claims that Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor were aware of these facts. Although back in 2011, the current President fired six ministers and a number of party officials on corruption charges, and many of them have been brought to trial, the situation remains quite acute.

Unexpected results of the first round of the presidential election

Marina Silva and Dilma Rousseff

In the 2014 campaign for presidency, there were 10 candidates, representing the entire political spectrum. However, most experts expected the main rivalry to take place between the two women, namely incumbent President Dilma Rousseff and the famous environmentalist Marina Silva.

Both politicians were well known nationwide. Dilma Rousseff in her youth took an active part in the struggle against the military dictatorship, was detained and tortured, and later occupied the positions of Minister of Energy and Chief of the Presidential Staff. In 2010, she was elected President as the official presidential candidate for the Workers' Party.

Her rival Marina Silva was born in a very poor family, learned to read when she was 14 years old, graduated with a history degree, and studied psychology and psychoanalysis. She was taken by leftist ideas very much and became a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which later joined the Workers' Party. A member of the Workers' Party, Marina Silva was elected to the federal senate and was appointed Environment Minister by Lula da Silva during his first term. Silva announced her switch from the Workers' Party to the Green Party (Partido Verde, PV) and launched her candidacy to the 2010 election under the Green Party ticket, receiving more than 19 per cent of the votes cast. During the current campaign, Marina Silva officially launched the virtual “Sustainability Network” (Rede de Sustentabilidade) but the party's creation was blocked due to an insufficient number of signatures to register it. As a result, Marina announced her affiliation to the Brazilian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Brasileiro, PSB) and was named candidate for vice president by the party’s leader Eduardo Campos, who announced his name for the presidential election. After Campos’s death in a plane crash, Marina Silva became the Brazilian Socialist Party's candidate for President of Brazil.

The third contender for the presidency was a well-known economist and President of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, PSDB) Aécio Neves da Cunha, grandson of the first democratically elected president Tancredo Neves, who died in 1985 shortly before the inauguration. Aécio Neves had been previously elected Congressman to the National Constituent Assembly, and then became senator and finally Governor of his home state. This third candidate stayed in the background until the very last moment.

Mass protests, caused unreasonable expenditures on such mega projects as the FIFA World Cup 2014 and preparations for the 2016 Olympics reached their peak in June 2013 and repeated themselves in the summer of 2014.

While Dilma Rousseff was supported by citizens who benefited from social reforms, and a part of the business, directly or indirectly connected with the public sector, the social base of Marina Silva’s followers was very diverse. It included, along with the poor, the urban middle class, non-governmental organizations, Pentecostal sects with the influential Assembly of God among them, environmentalists and anti-globalists, liberal advocates of market economy who were unhappy with the excessive growth of government regulation of the business sector, and various businessmen, representing the banking sector among others. The program of socialists was quite eclectic, and many of its provisions were of a populist nature. Depending on the audience, Marina Silva advocated the reduction of state intervention in the economy and a strengthening of the social protection of the population, criticized the traditional parties with a preference for plebiscitary democracy, and rejected all forms of authoritarianism, while protecting morals and traditional values.

During the two months before the elections, the ratings of Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva were each at 36-38 per cent, practically the same within the statistical margin of error. On the homestretch, the PT candidate took the lead with a rating of 40 per cent, followed by Marina Silva with 25 per cent and Aécio Neves with 20 per cent [6]. The results of the first round of voting (October 5, 2014) refuted all predictions: while Dilma Rousseff expectedly received 41.59 per cent of votes cast, she was followed by Aécio Neves with a startling 33.55 per cent, while Marina Silva was supported by only 21.32 per cent of voters. The other seven candidates received together about 3.5 per cent of the vote [7].

Marina Silva’s setback was due to her lack of political experience, unpredictability, criticism from the educated part of the society, significant disagreements with the PSB doctrine (the union of Marina Silva and socialists was more a marriage of convenience for both sides than a similarity of approaches), and a cautious attitude of Catholics that make up the majority of the population to the Pentecostals. In a televised debate, Marina Silva came off as second best to the incumbent President. The emotional factor created by the death of Eduardo Campos ceased to play any significant role by the time of the election. Under these circumstances, protesting and wavering voters chose to give their votes to a more balanced politician Aécio Neves.

Second round: the struggle between representatives from the backbone parties

The Supreme Electoral Court did recognize certain violations during the election campaign, but no one questioned the results of the vote and the losing candidate immediately congratulated the winner, despite the small margin.

The PT and PSDB programs are quite similar, and their position on the political spectrum is largely determined by their political alliances. According to L. Okuneva, a known Russian expert on Brazil, originally PT and PSDB belonged to the left wing of the political spectrum (the former was more left, while the latter was left-of-center), but over the years in power, the gap between them became noticeably wider. The PT advocated a leading role of the state in conducting economic and social reforms, while the PSDB favored strengthening market forces, an increased role for the private sector and neoliberal reforms [8]. Currently, many Brazilians, especially left-wingers, consider PDSB a right-of-center party.

The social base of these parties differs too: PT supporters are mostly low-income citizens (although there are representatives of big business as well), while the PSDB relies primarily on the middle class, intellectuals and the business community. Candidates from both parties were in favor of continued social reforms and recognized the need to get the economy out of crisis. However, they do differ in priorities: if Dilma Rousseff first of all emphasizes social protection, Aécio Neves’s priority is economic recovery.

The political debate before the second round was characterized by confrontation and personal insults of the presidential aspirants. The country was actually split, with dividing lines not only among the parties and organizations, but also among friends and relatives. Marina Silva, urging her supporters to vote for Aécio Neves, contributed to this split too. The ratings of both candidates were within the statistical margin of error, which was confirmed by the election results of October 26, 2014. The re-elected President of Brazil secured 51.54 per cent of votes, while her rival received 48.36 per cent of the vote [9]. Dilma Rousseff’s victory was due not so much to administrative resources, as to the active support of extremely popular Lula da Silva. In addition, it should be born in mind that no incumbent President in Latin America has ever lost the vote for a second term.

The Supreme Electoral Court did recognize certain violations during the election campaign, but no one questioned the results of the vote and the losing candidate immediately congratulated the winner, despite the small margin. (Elections in Brazil are considered to be transparent due to an electronic voting system using biometrics, the results are known within an hour after the polls close, and the elections were monitored by numerous observers and more than 100 diplomats from 72 countries and the European Union.) [10]

The new alignment of political forces in the National Congress and the states’ governing bodies


During her second presidential term (2015-2018), Dilma Rousseff will face an unfavorable political situation. The new parliament is extremely fragmented – there are representatives of 28 of the 32 registered political parties. The ruling Workers' Party, while maintaining a relative majority, received only 70 of the 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 12 of the 100 seats in the Senate (18 and 2 less, respectively, compared with the current composition of the parliament). Its main ally – represented by Vice-President Michel Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, PMDB) – will have 66 seats in the lower house and 18 seats in the upper house (13 deputies and two senators less) [11].

It is expected that with the support of some right-wing parties, the pro-presidential electoral coalition With the People's Force (Com a Força do Povo) will still be able to have up to 300 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 50 in the Senate, but the ruling party will have to make serious compromises with the right. It should be noted that in Brazil, party coalitions are formed not so much on ideological principles as on considerations of momentary advantage; deputies and senators do not comply with party discipline and often change from one faction to another, which substantially modifies the structure of parliament and complicates enacting legislation. In terms of its political and social structure, it is the most conservative National Congress in the entire democratic period: more than 190 members of parliament are representatives of business circles, 55 are from the military and police, and 52 are evangelists (Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals). The number of workers (46) has fallen by about half, and the number of women is less than 10 per cent [12].

Relations between the central government and constituent territories are unlikely to be problem-free either. After two rounds of voting, only 12 of the 27 governors will be allies of Dilma Rousseff, and 15 governors are in the opposition. (In some cases, representatives of friendly parties competed with each other during the elections). Representatives of the Workers' Party won five governorships, and seven governorships belong to its ally the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party. It is telling that some won victories due to PT support, while the others won their elections with the support of right-wing parties.

The victory of Luiz Fernando Pezão (PMDB) in Rio de Janeiro appears to be of particular significance for Dilma Rousseff, as well as the triumph of Fernando Pimentel (PT) in the state of Minas Gerais, where Aécio Neves used to be the governor in 2003-2007. The major setbacks are the retained opposition’s control over the most populous and wealthy state of São Paulo (Governor Geraldo Alkmin, PSDB); the defeat of Tarso Genro – a prominent PT figure, former minister and personal friend of Lula da Silva – in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, whose capital Porto Alegre, the venue of the World Social Forum, has always been a traditional stronghold of anti-globalists and the left; the victory of PSB candidate Rodrigo Rollemberg in the capital [13].

Prospects for domestic and foreign policy: continuity and changes

Strong political polarization that has taken place in the country, the significant shift of Brazil's electorate to the right, as well as the possible or even inevitable growth of social protest involving the middle class and discontent with the relative prosperity, should not be ignored.

At first glance, after all the shocks and surprises of the election campaign the alignment of political forces in Brazil has not undergone dramatic changes. The supreme executive power is in the hands of the same experienced and responsible politicians. Despite the fragmentation, the left-of-center PT and the centrist PSDB that ideologically belong to social democratic currents remain the backbone parties. Democratic procedures are strictly observed in the country, putting obstacles in the way of someone imposing personal power and extending the presidential term. Social policies aimed at further reducing poverty and social polarization are expected to continue. All of these factors suggest continuity in domestic and foreign policy during the second presidential term of Dilma Rousseff. Nevertheless, the strong political polarization that has taken place in the country, the significant shift of Brazil's electorate to the right, as well as the possible or even inevitable growth of social protest involving the middle class and discontent with the relative prosperity, should not be ignored.

In this environment, Dilma Rousseff, who won by a very narrow margin, will seek to expand her social base and become the President of all Brazilians. The economic recession will force the head of the state to reap the benefits of the constructive opposition’s proposals, aimed at reviving the economy, even at the expense of some popular social programs. The key objectives are to fight inflation, promote investment, develop infrastructure and enhance the competitiveness of the economy. Addressing these problems requires an adjustment of economic strategy.

It has already been announced that the new Minister of Finance will be Joaquim Levy, who received his doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago and has served on the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank. Armando Monteiro, a prominent businessman, who led at one time the National Confederation of Industrialists, has been named as President Dima Rousseff's new Minister of Development, Industry and Trade. The head of the Ministry of Planning will be former finance secretary Nelson Barbosa, and president of the National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA) Katia Abreu is to take over the Ministry of Agriculture. All the ministers of the economic block are technocrats who favor economic recovery by cutting public spending, stirring up market mechanisms, modernizing and improving the competitiveness of the Brazilian economy, and attracting foreign investment.

Adjusting economic policy could lead to a new surge of protests for better education and health, improved operations of the public transport system, strengthened personal security and an intensified struggle against corruption.

The promised political reforms, which are aimed at reducing the number of parties, putting an end to the private sector funding of election campaigns, introducing changes to the electoral law on the establishment of party coalitions, replacing the retired deputies and senators, and stabilizing parliamentary factions and the voting system in the National Congress, are likely to enjoy support from society.

In the realm of foreign policy, where some changes in personnel are quite possible as well, Brazil will continue to pursue its traditional multi-vector policy. This is evidenced, among other things, by the structure of its foreign trade, 16 per cent of which is with China, 12 per cent – with the US and 20 per cent – with the European Union [14]. Brazil will continue to pursue the aim of turning from a regional power into a global one and becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Striving for regional leadership implies the prioritized development of relations with Latin American partners, enhancing integration within the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and strengthening the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The probability of a potential rapprochement with the Pacific Alliance, which adheres to the principle of open regionalism and integration into the global economy will depend on adjustments made to the MERCOSUR strategy, which may change after the presidential election in Argentina in 2016.

Judging by the reaction of US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to the results of the Brazilian election as well as statements of Dilma Rousseff, both sides are willing to restore the strategic partnership and normalize bilateral relations, which were badly damaged by Edward Snowden’s revelations of US intelligence spying on Brazilian politicians, including the President.

There is a possibility of making the European Union, with which a preferential trade agreement has already been concluded, a strategic partner of Brazil. In principle, Brazil is interested in signing a free trade agreement with the EU, but the implementation of this plan is largely dependent on the position of other MERCOSUR members.

The traditional attention paid to South-South relations will promote cooperation with the countries of Asia and Africa, especially those that are Portuguese-speaking. Relations with the BRICS will continue to develop. There is little doubt that China appears to arouse Brazil’s main interest among the members of this association, but the part assigned to Russia is not small either. Congratulating Dilma Rousseff on her re-election, Vladimir Putin very much appreciated the attention paid by Brazil's President to strengthening the Russian-Brazilian strategic partnership and confirmed a readiness to continue a constructive dialogue and active collaboration in order to further develop bilateral cooperation in all areas, as well as interactions within the framework of the UN, Group of 20, BRICS and other multilateral institutions [15].

Speaking in general, we can conclude that most of the urgent changes will be of an evolutionary and balanced nature; in any case, the President will try to avoid shocks, and dialogue will prevail over confrontation.

1. http://www.elnuevo herald.com/noticias/mundo/America-latina/article3390304.html

2. CEPAL. Estudio económico de América Latina y el Caribe 2014. Santiago de Chile, 2014. Brasil. Cuadro 1.


3. www.infolatam.com/2014/11/24/paribas-preve-estancamiento-del-pib-y-alza-en-la-inflacion-de-brasil-en-2015

4. http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2014/06/Pew-Research-Center-Brazil-Report-FINAL-june-3-2014.pdf

5. UNODC. The Global Study on Homicide 2013. Vienna, 2014. P. 24.

6. http://www/parametria.com.mx/carta_parametrica.php?cp=4695

7. www.elecoes2014.com.br

8. http://www.mgimo.ru/news/expert/document261067.phtml

9. Ibidem.

10. http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/politica/2014-10/representantes-de-72-paises-acompanham-segundo-turno-no-brasil

11. http://g1.globo.com/politica/eleicoes/2014; http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/POLITICA/475427-PT-E-PMDB-ELEGEM-NOVAMENTE-AS-MAIORES-BANCADAS.html


13. http://www.infolatam.com/2014/10/27/la-oposicion-a-rousseff-amplia-su-poder-en-los-gobiernos-regionales/print/

14. http://www.infolatam.com/2014/10/28/brasil-razones-para-el-triunfo-dilma-rousseff-y-sus-consecuencias/print

15. http://ria.ru/politics/20141027/1030381958.html#ixzz3Ih6yJVSh

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