Monday, October 6, 2014

Silva Out, Rousseff and Neves head to 2nd Round Brazil Vote

The results of yesterday’s general election in Brazil are in. Much to the chagrin of Marina Silva, the environmentalist candidate came in a distant third place behind President Dilma Rousseff and Aecio Neves.

With 100 percent of ballots counted, the Workers’ Party (PT) Rousseff beat Neves of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) by eight points, 41.5 to 33.5 percent. Silva came far behind, with 22.1 percent of votes cast. A runoff between Neves and Rousseff will be held on October 26. 

In addition to presidential candidates, Brazil voted for lawmakers at the federal and state levels as well as governors of all 27 states. O Estado de São Paulo notes that the Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) is poised to remain a considerable legislative force, taking the largest bloc of seats in the upper house. The malleable big-tent party could also increase its share of governors from seven to ten.

Folha has a particularly useful breakdown of the results at the state levels. In São Paulo, PSDB Governor Geraldo Alckmin has been re-elected with 57 percent of the vote, while PMDB Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão (who received roughly 40 percent of the vote) will face a second-round race with Marcelo Crivella of the PRB (20 percent). The PT won an important symbolic victory in Minas Gerais, Neves’ home state and a traditional PSDB stronghold, with the first round victory of Fernando Pimentel in the gubernatorial race.

Today’s U.S. headlines are full of analyses of Silva’s surprisingly poor showing compared to Neves’ last-minute surge. In the New York Times, Simon Romero chalks up the results to Silva’s failure to deliver concrete proposals and her decision to revise her platform on issues like same-sex marriage. The Wall Street Journal frames the vote in the context of Brazil’s slowing growth, concerns over Rousseff’s handling of the economy, and the emerging Petrobras corruption scandal. The L.A. Times has a roundup of various analysts interpreting Neves’ success as a result of voters believing he has a better chance of beating Rousseff in a runoff.

Moving forward, the Rousseff camp is expected use an attack strategy against Neves similar to the one it used successfully against Silva, portraying the PSDB candidate as an elite figure out of touch with the demands of Brazil’s poor majority. Neves, for his part, will likely seize upon allegations of corruption against Rousseff, and seek Silva’s support for the runoff. When asked about whether she would remain neutral in the second round, as she did in 2010, Silva told reporters yesterday that she had a “commitment to change,” which O Globo interprets as a likely indication of support for Neves.

Beyond all the forecasting and regional vote-analyzing taking place, yesterday’s elections are also important for one underreported fact: the relatively high levels of abstention and blank ballots. According to the official tally, 11 million people submitted blank or null ballots, and 27.6 million did not vote. In total that makes 38.6 million, well above the 34 million votes received by second-place challenger Neves.

News Briefs
  • In more election news in the hemisphere, Peru voted for new mayors, governors and municipal councils on Sunday after what the AP describes as “the most violent campaign since 2000.” It also saw an alarming level of corruption allegations and at least 1,500 candidates with criminal records, as InSight Crime reports. In the capital city of Lima, former mayor  Luis Castañeda beat out incumbent Susana Villaran, La Republica and the WSJ note.
  • And in even more election news, a new Ipsos poll shows Bolivian President Evo Morales winning Sunday’s first round vote with 59 win percent of ballots, beating Samuel Dorina Medina by 46 points. Nick Miroff of the Washington Post has an excellent analysis of Morales’ political power in the country, noting how his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) has built a broad coalition as well as a reputation for pragmatic economic policies.
  • Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc,” died on Saturday of a heart attack. The Washington Post has an overview of his rule, noting that under Baby Doc, “living conditions for Haitians dipped even lower than their already dismal standing.” The Miami Herald, meanwhile, reports on the reaction to his death among international human rights activists, who lament Duvalier’s success in avoiding a trial for his government’s abuses since returning to Haiti in 2011.
  • Semana journalist Daniel Coronell has unveiled documents detailing the extent to which peace talk critic and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe undertook secret communications with FARC rebels as president. In a particularly ironic twist -- highlighted in English by Colombia Reports -- it appears that in 2006 Uribe was actually open to offering the rebels a demilitarized area  and to preventing the extradition of FARC leaders, two proposals he has loudly and publicly condemned in recent years.
  • The Los Angeles Times looks at the state of the Rios Montt genocide trial in Guatemala, noting that it has been delayed until next year and that its main proponents in the judiciary have been sidelined. While the paper questions the government’s commitment to trying human rights abusers, Mike Allison points out that several high-profile cases have moved forward recently, including the current trial of the massacre at the Spanish Embassy in 1980.
  • The mystery of Mexico’s missing students in Guerrero state has taken a dark turn. On Saturday authorities announced they had discovered a series of unmarked mass graves near where the students were disappeared, the L.A. Times and Fusion report. The graves contain the remains of 28 individuals, though they are too badly damaged to be identified immediately. And El Universal reports that prosecutors in the state say suspects have admitted to cooperating with police in killing 17 of the 43 students.
  • Today’s New York Times features an excellent report on the perils faced by Central American migrants along the journey northward, tracing the steps of one Guatemalan 16 year-old from Huehuetenango to Miami. She, her relatives, and even distant contacts of hers are extorted multiple times during the journey, illustrating what one expert describes to the paper as a “pyramid scheme.”

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