President Dilma Rousseff has won today’s election in Brazil against conservative challenger Senator Aecio Neves. The victory marks the conclusion of a heated campaign filled with controversy and scandal on both sides.
Rousseff of the Workers Party won 51.45 percent of the vote, reports BBC News. Neves of the Social Democracy party was close behind with 48.55 percent. The victory comes after Dilma previously won the first round of elections in early October. Because Rousseff didn’t win 50 percentor more of the vote at that time, she and second-place winner Neves faced off for today’s runoff election.
Polling on early Sunday reflected the close race with Rousseff only slightly ahead 47 percent to 43 percent, according to The Guardian. A growing tension between classes was accentuated by a race that was often overshadowed by controversy.
Dilma was accused of being aware of a huge bribes-for-votes scandal that is still unraveling. The scandal involved kickbacks from contracts received by the country’s biggest company, Petrobas, which were used to buy the votes and support of politicians. Rousseff, who has long championed the oil industry, has denied any knowledge of these arrangements. The company grew quickly in the last decade and helped Brazil become self-sufficient on their own oil reserves in 2006, creating a national pride attached to the company. The scandal was damaging, but the reveal that Rousseff may have known never quite caught on enough to damage her campaign.
Neves was also not without scandal. Dilma’s Workers Party countered with claims of nepotism due to Aecio’s hiring of cousins and other relatives during his time as governor. He was also accused of corruption due to his building an airport on his family property. Perhaps most damaging was a report of Neves punching his wife before they were married. While both Aecio and his wife denied the story, he saw a significant drop in support from female voters.
And of course, what is a presidential election without someone being called a Nazi? Neves was the first to break out that old chestnut, comparing the Workers Party manager for Rousseff’s campaign to the notorious Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. Dilma’s predecessor Lula da Silva shot back by saying the Social Democrats have persecuted the poor in a northeast region of Brazil just like the Nazis mistreated the Jews. And just for good measure, da Silva also described Neves as a drunk and a playboy and compared his intolerance to the infamous King Herod the Great, whose tyrannical rule led to the death of rabbis.
Dilma Rousseff’s victory means the Workers Party stays in power, continuing its 12-year run. It won’t be smooth sailing, though. Brazil is struggling through a recession. As The New York Times details, Rousseff and da Silva expanded social welfare programs to help millions of Brazilians out of poverty. The programs were an expansion of economic stabilization projects put in place by Social Democrats in the 1990s.
Dilma’s track record over the last four years secured her popularity with the poor and working class, but Rousseff’s economic skills have been questioned. Brazil’s financial markets have fluctuating throughout the race, reflecting low confidence in Dilma’s economic policies. Rousseff has stated she is willing to replace her unpopular financial minister. But despite the recession, Brazil’s unemployment rates are at historic lows, so Dilma does not see a compelling reason to significantly change course.
In the late 1960s, Rousseff was part of the Marxist geurilla movement. Dilma was imprisoned and tortured by then-ruling Brazilian military dictatorship. The second and final presidential term of Dilma Rousseff will begin in January.