Brazil’s Rousseff survives abortion row, looks set to win presidency

October 26, 2010


(Photo: Dilma Rousseff looks up before a television debate in Sao Paulo October 25, 2010/Nacho Doce)

Dilma Rousseff, front-runner in Brazil’s presidential race, appears to have successfully shifted the focus of the campaign away from corruption and her controversial views on abortion and back to the shining economic legacy of her popular former boss, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Rousseff, a 62-year-old career civil servant and former leftist militant, fell short of the majority of votes needed to win the election outright in the October 3 first round as last-minute doubts of many evangelical Christian and Catholic voters about her support for abortion rights probably cost the Workers’ Party candidate an outright victory. Opposition challenger Jose Serra then closed her poll lead to as little as four points.

But her shift in focus appears to have re-energized her base in Brazil’s emerging lower-middle class, which has nearly doubled in size under Lula’s mix of market-friendly policies and social welfare programs, and now accounts for about half the population. Rousseff has promised to stick to Lula’s policies.

Rousseff’s support slipped precipitously in the 10 days before the first round but she has taken steps to avoid a similar fate this time. Her written promise not to change Brazil’s abortion laws, which forbid the practice in most cases, appears to have eased concerns among religious voters who abandoned her in the first round but are now coming back, a Datafolha poll showed.

Read the full analysis by Brian Winter here.

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