International Affairs

Brazil Presidential Elections: Social Unrest and the Deteriorating Economic Climate.

The countdown has begun. A little more than two months until the most anticipated sports tournament is conducted- the FIFA Football World Cup 2014 hosted by a country known for considering the sport a religion, Brazil. But this is not the only countdown that Brazilians are waiting for. Brazilians are waiting for the Presidential elections due this October and whether the new government will be able to save the deteriorating condition of Latin America’s largest economy.

Brazil’s long time dream of returning the World Cup to South America after a 36-year hiatus is about to become a reality. But back in 2007 when FIFA gave the honour to Brazil the government made highly extravagant promises to its highly skeptical citizens that it will be a great game changer for the countries moribund economy. The Brazilian economy has seen a tremendous decline in the past 4 years. Some say that the country is on the brink of recession. The government made promises that about 3.6 million jobs would be created or that there would be a tremendous boon to the hospitality industry along with many other in order to sell the benefits to its skeptic citizens.

In reality the Brazilian government has already spent more than $11 billion (if statistics are to be believed) on just the infrastructure of football stadiums, airport and urban utility upgrades related to the World Cup at the cost of public services. While hosting the World Cup can have huge reputational benefits as it attracts great global media pressure, Brazil’s image has already been tainted by the social unrest caused during the last year Confederation Cup. The Confederation Cup serves as a run through of the World Cup but was over shadowed by the protests carried out by the public upon discontent over the quality of public transport, health, education and security.

 Now speaking about the elections, as of now there are 4 candidates, namely Dilma Rouseff (the current President from Worker’s Party), Aeccio Neves (Brazilian Social Democratic Party), Eduardo Campos (Brazilian Socialist Party) and Randolfe Rodriguez (Socialism and Freedom Party)- Rouseff and Neves being the top favourites. What all these candidates have to offer are very different.

As for Dilma Rouseff, Brazil’s current President, she fought against dictatorship, survived torture and became Brazil’s first ever woman President. But 2014 may be the year, which defines her legacy. The challenge lying ahead of this powerful woman is huge. Can she make sure that one of the most anticipated, followed and the most popular sporting tournaments can be held with success while at the same time keeping a population of 200 million people happy and satisfied? Well, if she is able to accomplish this task she might have strengthened her chances of a possible second term. Her victory in 2010 cemented the Worker’s Party’s economic and social successes after a long time wilderness with a view that hosting the World Cup can make Brazil known as the “Country of the Future”. But instead of the continuous socio- economic success Brazil now finds its way back into wilderness. The streets of Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia have been filled with protesters complaining against the central government for a possible better standard of living. This is a situation that Ms. Rouseff can claim as a Déjà vu. Back in her days of youth she found herself in a dangerous struggle between the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for two decades. It was a struggle undertaken while in hiding, under false names, and it led to her arrest and imprisonment; a struggle that led to her torture at the hands of Brazil’s military police. This time she remained silent barring herself to a two- line statement, one being that “Brazil is trying to be more than a just country”. 

Despite her stuttering response and the deteriorating economy she is still a favourite to win. But until the World Cup is over there is a chance of protesters finding their way back on the streets. If they do it will be very tough for the government to be answerable to both the public and football’s governing body, FIFA. Both these would ultimately pass the verdict on Rouseff and on Worker’s Party’s 12 years in power.

Aecio Neves, the leader of Brazil’s main opposition party and presidential candidate, is looking to turn pages of the leftist’s 12 year rule. But he has a very serious problem. About seven out of 10 Brazilians have never heard of him! Neves seem unperturbed about this fact. He is sure that once the presidential race kicks off the voters wanting change will know more about him. In his own words “”Voters increasingly want change, but they have yet to transfer that desire for change to an opposition candidate”. In his pre- election statements Neves claims to have made a pro- business program to help restore the confidence of investors that has been lost during the downfall of Brazil’s economy. Along with that he claims that lowering taxes, curbing public spending, can revive the economy and rebuilding the battered state of the state- controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras)

While Rousseff still has more voter support than Neves and Campos combined, her approval ratings have fallen due to Brazil’s weak economy and a snowballing scandal enveloping Petrobras. Whoever wins the elections will have a lot to answer and more so, a lot to mend. Starting with calming down the enraged public, budget cut-offs, to giving a reason to believe that the government isn’t just thinking short- term.

Irrespective of who wins the elections the foremost priority of the Brazilian government is to put back to slumber the giant that was awakened following a price hike in the bus fare forcing the public on to the streets in demand for better public investment and improved public services. Until then all one can hope is for the games to run smoothly after all it’s the heart- wrenching and mind numbing game on football!

About the Author

Tarang- ImageTarag Nagar

A student of Symbiosis Law School, Noida she has an aptitude for public speaking and likes reading. She has an inclination towards International Law, affairs and economics. When she manages to get spare time she is daydreaming about traveling all over the world.  She is a big novel and movie buff. She has a special interest in taxation law and wants to pursue the same in the future.

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