Brazil past and present: the next general elections

By Emma Brooks

This October, Brazil will be holding its general elections to vote in a new president and a new government. This election marks quite a turning point, namely because Brazil’s outgoing President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (more often known simply as Lula) will not be re-elected again. Lula has been president since 2002, a long 8 years in office, and a change of President though it may be welcome, will definitely be a new turning point.

But first, it’s important to set the background to these elections. What exactly is the political history of Brazil and what are the implications of this upcoming round? One could call it tumultuous to say the least. For a start, Brazil’s democracy is still quite young, having suffered several military dictatorships until the 1980s, followed by many corrupt governments and elections later on. In fact, Lula himself was the victim of corrupt elections during the 1980s against Fernando Collor de Melo, only achieving success in the presidential elections much later on in 2002.

Lula’s election to presidency was a major breakthrough in Brazilian politics, particularly because of his background, coming from a poor state from Northern Brazil, and having established the Workers Party. Initially Lula started his political career involved with Trade Unions gaining popularity very fast, a popularity which propelled him towards São Paulo and his political career as it stands today. Before Lula, this large part of society that are the workers was not really represented, and Lula himself coming from a poor background with little education, managed to gain the heart and trust of many voters in Brazil. His personal experience, travelling with difficulty from Pernambuco to São Paulo with few possessions so as to pursue his political career, positioned him as the perfect candidate to understand what the working class would want from Brazil, and how to give it to them.

Highlights of Lula’s career include many social reforms such as the goal to end hunger in Brazil, actions to counter juvenile pregnancy, and redistribution of goods to the poor. In particular, the program Bolsa Familia is the largest social assistance program, which provides allowances for food and gas, which is conditional on school attendance for children. He has also brought the country to the position in which it finds itself today: a booming economy, not really hit by the recession, and increasingly present on the world political scene. But although Lula’s career includes many successes, when speaking to Brazilian people you will also find many of them who do not like him.

In fact, Lula himself also suffers from many complaints made by today’s population, who dislike him and have criticisms to make. Many people feel that he has moved too far away from his original Workers Party background, so that in fact he is no longer representing their interests. Others are not completely convinced by his reforms, feeling that in fact he has not done much for society and that the existing social programs are not having any effect.

Unfortunately, the Lula administration as well as Lula himself have also be tinged by various scandals and allegations of corruption, making him no better than his predecessors. Having faced corruption himself, and being from a socialist background, it was hoped that Lula would not make use of corrupt political methods, yet his administration has been criticized for relying on political barons to ensure a majority in congress.  So although Lula is widely known for having brought about change in Brazil and is seen as a pioneering president, people will also be glad to see him go.

So who exactly are the candidates for this year’s presidential election, who aim to take on the presidency of Brazil after Lula? There is José Serra, of the Party of Brazilian Social Democray, Dilma Roussef of the Workers Party and therefore seen as Lula’s “appointed” successor, as well as Marina Silva from the Green Party. According to The Economist, Dilma Roussef is the most popular candidate for the time being, mainly since she has been part of Lula’s government since 2005, but also since she has been appointed as his successor, guaranteeing her the votes people would have cast for Lula if he had been able to run for president again.

Still according to The Economist, José Serra does not stand much of a chance against Dilma Roussef and will find it difficult to gain votes. Marina Silva on the other hand, suffers from the same syndrome as other green party candidates around the world: unfortunately their parties are just not strong enough yet to gain major representation in any government. Despite the fact that she is popular, she stands hardly any chances of becoming president or even going through to a second round of elections.

If Dilma Roussef is elected, what will this mean for Brazil? Will she be capable of taking on Lula’s legacy, and even more importantly will she be capable of being president? Will she merely continue Lula’s policies, or bring about change? There are many questions that can only be answered with time. To find out who will become the next President of Brazil and what this will mean for the future, we will have to wait until October 3rd when the first round of elections is held.

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