Brazil’s presidential election
Why Brazil needs change
Voters should ditch Dilma Rousseff and elect Aécio Neves
IN 2010, when Brazilians elected Dilma Rousseff as president, their country seemed at last to be living up to its huge potential. The economy expanded by 7.5% that year, setting the seal on eight years of faster growth and a steep fall in poverty under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Ms Rousseff’s political mentor and the leader of the centre-left Workers’ Party (PT). But four years later that promise has disappeared. Under Ms Rousseff the economy has stalled and social progress has slowed. Sanctions-hit Russia aside, Brazil is by far the weakest performer in the BRIC club of big emerging economies. In June 2013 over a million Brazilians took to the streets to protest against poor public services and political corruption.
Ever since the protests the polls have shown that two-thirds of respondents want the next president to be different. So one might have expected them to turf out Ms Rousseff in the first round of the country’s presidential election on October 5th. In the event she secured 41.6% of the vote and remains the narrow favourite to win the run-off ballot on October 26th. That is mainly because most Brazilians have not yet felt the economic chill in their daily lives—though they soon will. And it is partly because her opponent, Aécio Neves of the centre-right Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), who won 33.6%, has struggled to persuade poorer Brazilians that the reforms he espouses—which the country urgently needs—will benefit rather than harm them. If Brazil is to avoid another four years of drift, it is vital that he succeeds in doing so.
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A campaign upended by fate
Mr Neves’s task has been made harder by a campaign scarred by tragedy and upended by fate, as dramatic as a Brazilian . Two months ago the third-placed candidate, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash on his way to a rally. His former running-mate and replacement, Marina Silva, surged into the lead in the polls. An environmentalist, Ms Silva is the darling of the protesters, the symbol of a “new politics”. But attractive though her lack of a political machine might have seemed, it was a liability. Faced with sometimes underhand attacks from Ms Rousseff, Ms Silva wobbled. It did not help that she is an evangelical Protestant in what is still a largely Catholic country. In the end her 21% share of the vote was scarcely bigger than she managed in 2010. Rather than a “new politics”, the run-off will repeat the battle between the PT and the PSDB that has defined all Brazil’s presidential elections since 1994.
In this contest, Ms Rousseff’s main asset is popular gratitude for full employment, higher wages and a clutch of effective social programmes—not just the cash-transfers but low-cost housing, student grants, and rural electricity and water programmes in the poor north-east. These are real achievements. But alongside them are bigger, but less palpable, failures, both on the economy and in politics.
The troubled world economy and the end of the great commodity boom (see ) have hurt Brazil. But it has fared worse than its Latin American neighbours. Ms Rousseff’s constant meddling in macroeconomic policies and attempts to micromanage the private sector have seen investment fall. She has made few efforts to tackle Brazil’s structural problems: its poor infrastructure, high costs, punitive tax system, mountains of red tape and a rigid labour code copied from Mussolini.
Instead, she has revived Brazil’s corporate state, dishing out favours to insiders, such as tax breaks and subsidised loans from bloated state banks. She has damaged both Petrobras, the state oil company, and the ethanol industry by holding down the price of petrol to mitigate the inflationary impact of her loose fiscal policy. A bribery scandal in Petrobras underlines that it is the PT, and not its opponents as Ms Rousseff claims, who cannot be trusted with what was once a national jewel.
This corporate state of voracious insiders is symbolised by Ms Rousseff’s absurdly large coalition, and her 39-member cabinet. It costs Brazilians some 36% of GDP in taxes—far higher than in other countries at a similar stage of development. No wonder the government has been unable to find the extra money for health care and transport that the protesters demanded. And what is worse, Ms Rousseff, who lacks Lula’s political touch, shows no sign of having learned from her errors.
More of the same will no longer do
Ms Rousseff draws strength from Mr Neves’s flaws as a candidate. The left’s baseless insinuation that he would axe has stuck because he is a member of Brazil’s political establishment—his grandfather died on the eve of becoming president in 1985—and he carries a whiff of the old politics: as governor of Minas Gerais, he was found to have spent public money on a small-town airstrip which just happens to be close to his farm. For the past 12 years Lula, who still has the ear of the poor, has caricatured the PSDB as a party of heartless fat cats.
Yet Mr Neves’s policies would benefit poor Brazilians as well as prosperous ones. He promises to put the country back on the path of economic growth. His record, and that of his party, makes his claim credible. In the presidencies of Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the 1990s, the PSDB vanquished inflation and laid the foundations for Brazil’s recent progress; and in two terms as governor, Mr Neves turned Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second-most-populous state, from a financial basket-case into an example of good administration with some of the country’s best schools. He did so largely by cutting bureaucracy. He has an impressive team of advisers led by Arminio Fraga, a former Central Bank governor who is respected by investors. As well as a return to sound macroeconomic policies, his team promise to slash the number of ministries, make Congress more accountable to voters, simplify the tax system and boost private investment in infrastructure.
Mr Neves deserves to win. He has fought a dogged campaign and proved that he can make his economic policies work. The biggest threat to social programmes is the PT’s mismanagement of the economy. With luck the endorsement of Ms Silva, a former PT member born in poverty, should bolster his case. Brazil needs growth and better government. Mr Neves is likelier to deliver these than Ms Rousseff is.
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Após apoiar Serra em 2010, ‘Economist’ pede voto em Aécio
A revista britânica defendeu o candidato do PSDB à Presidência, Aécio Neves, em artigo publicado nesta quinta-feira, 11 dias antes das eleições. “Neves merece vencer. Ele fez uma campanha persistente e provou que pode fazer suas políticas econômicas funcionarem”, disse a publicação.
Em 2012, a foi criticada pela presidente Dilma Rousseff após a revista pedir a demissão do ministro da Fazenda, Guido Mantega. No ano seguinte, a publicação voltou a fazer duras críticas ao PT e comparar Dilma à presidente argentina Cristina Kirchner – pelo que disse ser demasiada interferência na economia do país.
Um artigo publicado pouco antes do segundo turno das eleições em 2010 defendia o então candidato do PSDB José Serra, dizendo que ele “seria um presidente melhor do que Dilma Rousseff”.
O artigo desta quinta-feira, intitulado “Por que o Brasil precisa de mudança”, a revista volta a afirmar que a promessa de crescimento deixada pelo governo Lula deixou de ser cumprida. E diz que, após os protestos “era de se esperar que os brasileiros dispensassem Dilma já no primeiro turno”.
Aécio Neves, de acordo com a , “está tendo dificuldades em persuadir os brasileiros mais pobres de que as reformas que ele defende – de que o país necessita urgentemente – irão beneficiá-los, e não ymbolize-los”.
“Se o Brasil quiser evitar outros quatro anos à deriva, é vital que ele consiga fazê-lo”, afirma.
O principal trunfo de Dilma, segundo a revista é “a gratidão popular pelo pleno emprego, maiores salários e uma série de programas sociais eficientes – não só a transferência de renda do Bolsa Família, mas casas a preços populares, bolsas estudantis e programas de eletricidade e água no Nordeste”.
“São verdadeiras conquistas. Mas ao lado delas estão erros maiores, mas pouco palpáveis, na economia e na política”.
A defende as propostas de Aécio Neves para a condução da política econômica e diz que ele é assessorado por uma equipe “impressionante”, citando o ex-presidente do Banco Central, Armínio Fraga.
De acordo com a publicação, a campanha de Dilma tem se beneficiado de “falhas de Neves como candidato”, como a suspeita gerada pela descoberta de gasto de dinheiro público na construção do aeroporto em Cláudio (MG), em terras de um parente, mas afirma que, “com sorte”, o apoio de Marina Silva ajudará a elegê-lo.
Em evento nesta sexta-feira, a presidente Dilma comentou o posicionamento da publicação: “As revistas do mundo, tanto estrangeiras quanto nacionais, têm direito de tomar uma posição política. Agora, eu sei a filiação da , é uma revista ligada ao sistema financeiro internacional”.
“É de se esperar, porque é uma revista de posicionamento liberal, economicamente falando”, disse à BBC Brasil o economista e professor da ESPM Rio Roberto Simonard.
“A política da Dilma é mais intervencionista do que a do Lula e a acha que este maior grau de intervenção seria o responsável pelo Brasil estar apresentando menores índices de crescimento. Junte-se a isso o fato de que Armínio Fraga, cotado como ministro da Fazenda de Aécio, é alguém muito respeitado no exterior.”
Simonard diz não acreditar que o artigo poderá ter impacto entre os eleitores brasileiros. “Pouca gente lê . Mesmo que a campanha de Aécio use o artigo, isso é algo que tem dois lados. Pode ser visto como uma coisa positiva ou negativa, por ser considerado intervenção estrangeira”, diz.
No início de outubro, a revista de economia americana Forbes publicou, em seu portal online, um artigo dizendo que “o Brasil está melhor” após Dilma e que ela deverá fazer as mudanças necessárias na política econômica. Um mês antes, a mesma revista havia chegado a listar “cinco razões pelas quais a presidente Dilma Rousseff não deve ser reeleita”, mas voltou atrás.