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Brazil’s Cautious Voters

MEXICO CITY – Brazil has been in the global spotlight this year, and not always for the right reasons. Following the 2013 riots over the amount of money being spent on the 2014 soccer World Cup, protests continued up to, and even during, the tournament in June. There were dire – though ultimately misplaced – predictions about chaotic conditions for participants, and then, of course, the catastrophic performance of the home team.

Now, the costs of the soccer jamboree, coming on top of the country’s ongoing economic slowdown, are coming home to roost. Several analysts have concluded that Brazil’s bubble has burst, and that the so-called “country of the future” will remain stuck in the present.

Economic uncertainty is also dramatically affecting Brazilian politics. And a once placid, even predictable, presidential election campaign has been thrown into disarray by the death of the Brazilian Socialist Party candidate, Eduardo Campos, in an airplane crash in August.

Campos’s running mate, Marina Silva, was then nominated to take his place. A presidential candidate four years ago who ran on a green, socially conservative, but strongly pro-democratic platform, Silva received nearly 20 million votes. Her ties to Brazil’s huge evangelical churches, and her unwillingness to break with them on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and drug policy, alienate many voters. Nonetheless, she has rapidly overtaken Aécio Neves, the Social Democratic Party (PSDB) candidate, as the main challenger to Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent President and Workers’ Party (PT) candidate. A run-off between the two women, following the October 5th first round, seems inevitable, as opinion polls give neither close to 50% of the vote.