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While much of the world’s attention has been focused on other matters—Ebola, the Middle East, or the collapse of world oil prices—one of the most exciting presidential elections in decades has been unfolding in Brazil.
The drama follows on from the turmoil of the World Cup in July. As Brazilians protested the tournament’s $11.5 billion price tag, amid fast-rising consumer prices and unemployment, the national team suffered a disastrous loss against Germany in the semi-final. Some speculated that such a humiliation could ignite a political revolt sufficient to unseat incumbent president Dilma Rousseff. Aécio Neves, a pro-business legacy politician from Minas Gerais, seemed to be the one for the job.
Or not. One month after the World Cup ended, the third-place presidential contender, Brazilian Socialist Party (BSP) candidate Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash. His running mate, former environment minister Marina Silva, took his place. BSP popularity surged, and excitement grew. Would Silva, a staunch activist from the poverty-stricken Amazon, be Brazil’s first black president? Surveys predicted an all-female runoff between Silva and Rouseff. The polls swung, favoring first the former and then the latter.
But in the first round of voting on October 5, it was Rousseff and Neves—the white, wealthy, business-friendly candidate—who came out on top, suggesting Brazil’s emerging middle class might prefer more conservative politicians. Or maybe Rousseff’s detractors just didn’t think Silva could unseat her.
This Sunday, Brazilians head back to the polls for a runoff vote. The numbers are in Rousseff’s favor. But Silva, business leaders (paywall), and football legends are all in Neves’ corner, and a new cover story in the popular weekly magazine Veja alleges that Rousseff knew of Petrobras corruption. If we’ve learned anything from this election—and the World Cup before it—it’s not to bet too big on the final outcome.—Jenni Avins
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