Fairly boring Brazilian election (contd.)

Dilma Rousseff heads for an easy win.

Dilma Rousseff is keeping her large lead over José Serra and will surely win the second round on October 31 and the Brazilian Presidency. Since influence-peddling scandals are already in the mix, there´s little room for last-minute upsets.

You have to be sorry for Serra. The long CV that qualifies him to govern is his Achilles´ heel. Dilma (I´m not being patronising by using her first name: they are running as ¨Dilma¨ and ¨Serra¨) doesn´t attack him on his stint as Health Minister when Brazil adopted its very successful, and nationalist, policy on generic drugs, but as an executor under Cardoso of the unpopular privatisation policy. The ¨Washington consensus¨, remember, never extended very far outside Washington. So the charge that Serra will privatise Petrobras may be baseless but plays well.

The campaign promises are more or less the same, and so is the imagery on the lengthy free TV slots – hospitals, roadworks, trains (Serra´s are artificially speeded-up!), dams, refineries: no hummingbirds, unspoilt beaches, or pristine forests. Marina Silva or her party failed to make a deal with either of the leading candidates – a big mistake IMHO on Serra´s part as it was his only hope, and bad news for the Amazon and the rest of us. Neither vice-presidential candidate is visible; Brazilians should worry more about the health risks, as Serra is 68 and Dilma has had a run-in with cancer. Lula is not very prominent in the Dilma campaign. Like her or not, Dilma Rousseff has a strong and confident personality and Lula´s hopes of an ¨éminence grise¨ role must be fading. UN ambassador?

It´s a safe bet that a Dilma administration will have more social spending and higher inflation than a Serra one, as well as more nationalist (and anti-American) theatre. Foggy Bottom reflexively sees lefty populists like Dilma as a threat and would be much happier with conservative, US-educated technocrats like Serra. But just now, what the world economy – and hence the US one – needs is more big-spending, inflationary governments like Brazil´s, not hair-shirt S/M fashionistas like Britain´s. The diplomats´ pet theory of an objective national interest that transcends ordinary political differences is attributed to Lord Palmerston. It´s really just enslavement to Palmerston´s politics.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

3 thoughts on “Fairly boring Brazilian election (contd.)”

  1. No comments, sadly. Maybe I should have titled this post something like¨Sex, lies and videotape in the Brazilian election¨. There are lies and videotape of course (the latter around an incident when left-wing demonstrators hit Serra on the head with a reel of duct tape – or was it just a ball of paper?). I´m sorry to report that with Marina Silva´s departure the sex interest has gone to zero. Those Brazilians who follow the private lives of public figures reasonably think that those of footballers and TV stars are likely to be more varied and exciting than those of middle-aged politicians.

  2. James, don't despair: I'm here to offer meu dois centavos. Serra, is a truly colorless figure which, no doubt hurts him. He is less charismatic than Michael Dukakis.

    I've always been of two minds on Lula: on the one hand his story is truly stunning. It's the sort of story that people in the US always talk about possibly happening there, but probably never will. On the other, he clearly tacked to the center after the election. The public employee pension reforms (badly needed IMHO: I have an aunt by marriage who retired at 52 in Minas Gerais and pulls down a R$10K pension per month for life; talk about nice work if you can get it!) he pushed through were vigorously opposed by the PT during the Cardoso era. Environmentally, I think he's been a disaster. His pushing for more and more dams is a very bad policy IMHO.

    As for privatization, I don't think that Petrobras should be privatized. As a friend who works in that business told me, they're a bit bureaucratic, but they're well run. On the other hand, Embratel was an awful company. I've known people who lived in Brazil for years and gave up on getting a land line until Embratel was broken up. CVRD, now known as Vale, employs more people now than it did when it was state-owned.

    As for Lula's future, it's abundantly clear to me that the PT needs him more than he needs the PT. I would not be surprised to see him back on the scene if not in 2014, perhaps in 2018.

  3. Yes, Lula is a flawed titan. Hie forced centrism, like Mitterand´s, has made normal politics possible, replacing the class warfare of an extremely unequal and divided society. Our predictions differ on his future: an interesting bet!

    There´s no reason to disbelieve Serra on Petrobras. But let me offer another half-prediction. Brazilian offshore oil is very deep, and, as we´ve seen in the Gulf, inherently risky. A large spill is quite likely. And the resulting outrage would certainly throw up deficiencies in regulation from PT cronyism exacerbating the excessive closeness to government of a national champion. It could be almost as danaging to Dilma as Katrina was to Bush jnr. though she wouldn´t make the mistake of not showing up.

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