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.