Brazil elects its first female president

by Craig Janis

Congratulations to Dilma Rousseff, the first female president of Brazil! Ms. Rousseff is widely expected to continue the economic policies of her predecessor, Lula da Silva. From MercoPress:

President Lula da Silva’s handpicked candidate Dilma Rousseff won Brazil’s Sunday run-off becoming the first woman president to lead Latinamerica’s largest economy. Ms Rousseff promised to stick to policies that have lifted millions from poverty and made Brazil one of the world’s hottest economies.

Rousseff had 55.2% of valid votes compared to 44.8% for opposition candidate Jose Serra, with 91% of votes tallied, according to Brazil’s election authority.

An economist and former energy minister who leans left but has become more pragmatic over time, Rousseff had never run for elected office. Yet she received decisive support from Brazil’s wildly popular President Lula da Silva, who plucked her from relative obscurity to succeed him.

During Lula’s eight years in office, his stable fiscal policies and social programs helped lift 20 million Brazilians, or more than 10% of the population, out of poverty and another 25 million to join the ranks of lower middle class.

Rousseff who as a student was involved in guerrilla activities, vows to build on Lujla da Silva’s successes by upgrading Brazil’s roads system, schools and other infrastructure as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

She also seeks to exploit the country’s newfound offshore oil wealth and expand the state’s role in the energy sector while continuing to court private investment.

“Her government will focus primarily on solving Brazil’s bottlenecks,” Fernando Pimentel, a close adviser to her campaign, said in a recent interview.

Rousseff lacks Lula da Silva’s charisma, and she has shown limited interest in passing major economic reforms, such as an overhaul of Brazil’s onerous tax code, that many investors say are necessary to reduce the high cost of doing business.

Lula has acknowledged Rousseff lacks political experience but chose her because of her skill as a technocrat and administrator. He says those qualities will be critical over the next four years as Brazil tries to bring its infrastructure in line with its ambitions as an emerging world power.