More Change, More Future

Four More Years for Brazil's Dilma Rousseff

A supporter of Dilma Rousseff holds a campaign flag for Rouseff in front of Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, October 26, 2014. Ueslei Marcelino / Courtesy Reuters

After a campaign season with many surprising twists and turns, Dilma Rousseff was reelected president of Brazil on Sunday evening. The win brings her Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT) its fourth presidential term in a row. Even so, the result was not a consequence of complacency among the electorate. Nor does it signal continuity to come. The Brazilian electorate was nearly evenly split; with all the votes counted just a few hours after polls closed, Rousseff has pulled in 51.64 percent of the valid vote and her rival, Aécio Neves of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), 48.36 percent. For that reason, the next term is likely to be the most difficult that the PT has ever faced.

The campaign began uneventfully. For months, Rousseff stayed well ahead of her two main challengers, Neves and Eduardo Campos of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). When Campos died in a tragic plane crash in August, his charismatic vice president Marina Silva replaced him and briefly shot into first place. But Silva steadily lost supporters throughout the campaign season, thanks to both her own missteps and strong attacks from the PT, her former party. Enough voters jumped to Neves in the final days before the first round of voting that he won, becoming the standard-bearer for change in a face-off with Rousseff. Silva and the PSB pledged him their support.

The PT and PSDB have competed in every Brazilian presidential election since 1994. They represent genuine programmatic alternatives to each other, especially in economic policies and foreign relations. The PT leans left and favors more state intervention in the economy. Under it, public spending and the role of public banks have increased, and state planning agencies orient many sectors of the economy. In its foreign policy, the PT has focused on what it calls South-South relations, especially under former President Lula da Silva.

In contrast, the center-right PSDB is more market-oriented. It led privatization efforts in Brazil in the 1990s. (Former PSDB president Fernando

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