By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The elections of October 3rd failed to name the next president of Brazil, with current president Lula’s designated successor and front-runner Dilma Rousseff unable to secure the required absolute majority of votes, calling for a run-off round between herself and José Serra at the end of the month.
With seven of the nine presidential candidates out of the picture, most significantly Marina Silva, who came third with 19.3 percent of the votes, surprising even many of her supporters, the dynamic of the presidential race has shifted, and so have the campaign strategies of the remaining two candidates.
Even though early predictions indicate that Dilma, who secured 46.9 percent of the votes in the first round against Serra’s 32.6 percent, will emerge victorious from the run-off round on October 31st, the ultimate determining factor may be whether Marina Silva decides to throw her support behind one of the candidates.
The most recent public opinion poll conducted by Datafolha shows Dilma leading with 48 percent and Serra at 41 percent. Only taking the valid votes into account, voiding the nulo (invalid) votes and adding the branco (blank) votes, which are cast to show the voter’s approval for both candidates, to the leader’s total, the poll shows Dilma with 54 percent and Serra with 46 percent.
With the difference in voter support between the two candidates at less than ten percentage points, and considering the oscillating voter support for Dilma (which from July to August increased a massive 15 points and eventually decreased by ten points until election day), the current situation may yet be subject to a twist.
Securing Marina Silva’s endorsement is the primary concern for the candidates, and getting the votes of even half her supporters might mean a surprise win for the underdog Serra, should the other half opt to vote nulo or branco.
Thus both candidates have been adjusting their strategies in order to appeal to Marina Silva of Partido Verde (PV, Green Party), by placing a special emphasis on environmental consciousness, as well as the causes and ideologies that the PV espouses.
So far neither the party nor Silva have declared an endorsement or a favorable inclination towards either candidate, and the PV leader of the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies) Edson Duarte has defended the importance of the voters’ own judgment. “Our nearly twenty million voters should assess who has the qualifications to take over and run the project”, he said, also voicing his desire to see both Dilma and Serra “adopting the PV’s commitment to Brazil”.
Marina Silva, on the other hand, has recently announced that she is willing to negotiate support for Dilma or Serra going into the run-off round, depending on the candidates’ adherence to the ten topics included in a document she released.
Beginning with the requirement of not restraining the media under any circumstances, the document, subdivided into 42 demands, includes the conditions of transparency and ethics, electoral reform, education, public safety, climate change, energy and infrastructure, social security, health care, social assistance and welfare, protection of biomes, public expenditure reform, foreign policy, and strengthening of cultural and social diversity.
Making it clear that adherence to these principals will only be one factor in their decision, Marina Silva will convene the party leadership on October 17th and hold a convention in order to determine whether she chooses to endorse a candidate, or prefers to remain neutral.