MEXICO CITY – The first round in Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for October 3, may turn out to be the only round. For outgoing President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, is very close to winning an outright majority of the vote.
Rousseff's main opponent, São Paulo Governor José Serra, has not gained traction with voters, owing to his inconsistent stances – ranging from withering criticisms of Lula’s foreign policy to outright support for his social policies. According to some polls, Serra is more than 20 points behind.
Lula leaves office with astonishing popularity for a two-term Latin American president. The economy is growing at a double-digit rate, and the 2014 Soccer World Cup and 2016 Olympics are on the horizon. Under Lula’s stewardship, millions of Brazilians emerged from poverty, and the middle class has become a majority – albeit a small one. Brazil has acquired an international stature worthy of its size and success, though perhaps not of its ambitions. Its democracy is thriving and vibrant, if not always effective or without corruption.
But there are grounds for skepticism about Lula’s legacy, and the fact that they are rarely mentioned does not diminish their significance.