The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of MichiganThe Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan

Ambassador Melvyn Levitsky appears in Inter-American Dialogue's Latin American Advisor, answering the question: "Has Dilma Already Won Brazil's Presidential Election?"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Has Dilma Already Won Brazil's Presidential Election?

Question from "Latin American Advisor"

Ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff widened her lead ahead of Brazil's October presidential election to 11 percentage points, according to an Ibope poll released Aug. 17 by TV Globo. The lead puts Rousseff in a position to win a first-round victory. Is Rousseff a shoo-in? To what do you attribute her rise in the polls over the last few months? How will the race be affected by the Aug. 17 start of broadcasters' allotting air time to the candidates? What does José Serra need to do in order to win more support from voters?

Answer from Ambassador Melvyn Levitsky

"In my last comment on the election for the Advisor at the end of May, I mentioned three factors I thought were salient to the election. First, is the fact that Serra, though competent, is not a charismatic, dynamic candidate. Second, what level of engagement would the ever-popular Lula take in Dilma's campaign? Third, how well will Dilma (with Lula's support) strike a balance between Lula's conservative monetary and fiscal policies and the populism she and the Workers Party have been associated with in the past? So far, all these factors have worked in Dilma's favor. Serra has taken a kid-glove approach toward Dilma. Lula has actively engaged himself in her campaign. Dilma has done relatively little except to show up; she has benefited from a smartly functioning economy and a sense among the voters that her presidency would generally be a continuation of Lula's. Marina Silva, the Green Party candidate, has not made much of an impression, contrary to the beliefs of some that she would eat into Dilma's natural constituency. The polls show a rather large lead for Dilma, though their ranges from 5 percent to 16 percent over Serra make them somewhat subject to doubt. I think Serra will have to go on the attack to regain lost ground. He will have to question Dilma's experience, cull up radical statements she has made in the past and be more aggressive in the debates, in campaign ads and in personal appearances around the country; he can't win only with his traditional support in the South. I do not think Dilma is a shoo-in, but Serra and his supporters have to work much more actively to stop the momentum in Dilma's campaign. Otherwise this election could be over in the first round."

Posted with permission by Inter-American Dialogue's Latin America Advisor

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