By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sunday has been the day of victory for Dilma Rousseff, who is elected Brazil’s next president to succeed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, after beating her rival José Serra by over ten points in the run-off round of the presidential elections.
After failing to secure the absolute majority of the votes in the first round of elections on October 3rd, which sent the race to the second round, Lula’s protégée Dilma has secured 56 percent of the votes as opposed to Serra’s 44 percent, and will be Brazil’s first female president when she takes office on January 1st, 2011.
The elections, in which 99.1 million valid ballots were cast, began at 8AM in the morning, and the vote count started after the last ballots closed at 7PM. The Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE) has called the elections in favor of Dilma shortly after 8PM, when about ninety percent of the ballot count was complete, due to difference between the candidates’ points being over ten percent.
Outside of the country, over 200,000 Brazilians have cast ballots in 101 cities in 86 countries, and the results that came from overseas showed a preference towards Serra instead of Dilma.
Dilma led in fifteen states, including Rio de Janeiro, most states in the North and all in the Northeast, where Lula is from, as well as the Federal District (i.e. Brasília), where Serra secured the majority of votes in eleven states, primarily São Paulo, where he held the positions of mayor and governor, and all Southern states, including Rio Grande do Sul, where Dilma used to be based.
Out of the 135.8 million voters of Brazil, where voting is mandatory for all citizens between the ages of 18 and seventy, 29 million have opted to exercise their right for abstention, 4.7 million voted nulo (null), and 2.4 million voted branco (blank). The number of abstentions has increased to 21.2 percent in this round from 18 percent in the first round, and while considered “normal” by the TSE, it is attributed to the run-off round falling on an extended holiday weekend, as well as the tendency for some people to only vote in the first round.
Announcing: “I have the pride and satisfaction of saying that the elections passed in a peaceful and tranquil climate across the country”, the president of TSE Ricardo Lewandowski has also praised the technology that allowed them to declare the results within about an hour.
Chosen by current president Lula as his successor, and the candidate from Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers’ Party), Dilma, 62, has never held elected office before, but worked closely with Lula as his former Minister of Energy and Mines, as well as his Chief of Staff.
While some were concerned that she lacked Lula’s charisma and natural leadership ability, she was initially unknown to most voters, but gradually increased her support as the official campaigning started in July, and Lula strategically used his immense popularity in her favor by associating himself with her name and image.
Dilma Rousseff will be the fourth female president in Latin America, after Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla. She is expected to continue Lula’s policies, but by keeping a lower profile on the international scene, and with a bigger focus on economic and domestic policies.