Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ambush of President Dilma's reelection bid by Amazon activist Marina Silva

President Dilma Rouseff's four year work for reelection has been ambushed in just two weeks by  the Amazon activist Marina Silva who is now predicted to win in the October elections. If elected, Marina is likely to continue the pro-poor policies of the current government. But she will be more proactive in foreign policy than Dilma. PM Modi will find Marina less stiffer and more enthusiastic than Dilma in bilateral partnership and cooperation in global issues.

Ambush of President Dilma's reelection bid by Amazon activist Marina Silva

President Dilma Rouseff was comfortably ensconced in her Planalto palace in Brasilia waiting to get reelected in the October elections. Even after the massive street protests and the shocking defeat of the Brazilian team in the World Cup, she was leading in the opinion polls to win against Aecio Neves, the candidate of the centre-right Social Democratic Party and Eduardo Campos of the Socialist Party. This was until 20 August, when the Socialist Party had put up Marina Silva as Presidential candidate in place of Campos who died in a plane crash the week before. Two opinion polls, released in the first week of September, have predicted that Marina would win with a 7% lead over Dilma in the second round of the elections.The Dilma camp which had been systematically preparing for reelection with confidence for the last four years has been shocked by this ambush from the Amazon-born activist.

The prospect of Marina's win has come as a boon to the middle class which had protested in the last two years against poor public services, rise in prices and the corruption scandals involving the Workers' Party (PT) of Dilma. Marina is perceived as a principled anti-establishment outsider by the protestors. Marina's clean image contrasts her from Dilma's PT whose top leaders have been convicted on corruption charges. Marina's humble origin resonates with the poor people.The business community, which resented the I-know-everything attitude and inaccessibility of Dilma, has quickly latched on to the winning camp of Marina. They believe in her transformation from an idealist activist to a pragmatic political leader. Marina has declared that she will be a one-time President and will not seek reelection. This is a clever message to the supporters of Lula who has announced his own candidature for 2018. Marina has thus gained the support of the poor, the middle-class and the business dipping into the vote banks of Dilma and Neves

Marina's personal life story is compelling and similar to Lula's spectacular rise from poverty to presidency. She was born in a poor rubber tapping community in a village in the Amazonian state of Acre. She was one of the eleven children born to her parents who died leaving her as orphan at the age of 16. She learnt to read as a teenager when she was raised by nuns. She survived malaria, hepatitis and other diseases. She joined the rubber tappers' union and worked with the famous Chico Mendes whose movement worked for the protection of the Amazon from the deforestation interests.  She joined PT in 1986 and was elected as deputy in the State Assembly in 1990 and as Federal Senator in 1994. She became the Minister of Environment in President Lula's cabinet in the period 2003-8. But she resigned from the cabinet when her passionate environmentalism collided with vested interests and she lost the support of Lula.

Marina fought the 2010 elections as candidate of Green Party and came in the third place with an impressive 19.3 % of votes. Later she tried to create a party of her own called as the Sustainability Network but it did not work out. In 2013, she joined the Socialist Party and agreed to be the vice-presidential candidate with Campos. 

If elected, Marina is likely to  continue the Inclusive social policies of the current government, since she is also a leftist like Lula and Dilma. But she might give more space to the private sector business which felt stifled by the Dilma administration. The Brazilian stock and bond markets have already started bullish run anticipating Marina's win.

Brazilian foreign policy remained passive in the last four years since Dilma took very little interest in external affairs. But Marina is committed  to raise the profile of Brazil. She gives importance to regional integration, South-South cooperation, improvement of relations with US, signing of trade agreement with Europe and innovative Brazilian leadership initiatives in global climate change policies. She is likely to be less vocal in supporting Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. 

Prime Minister Modi might find Marina a bit less stiffer and more enthusiastic than Dilma in strengthening the bilateral strategic partnership and cooperation in IBSA, BRICS as well as in multilateral fora. 

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