Electoral officials have confirmed that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s successor is Dilma Rousseff (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
At 62 she becomes Brazil’s first woman president, without having held elected office before. She was the preferred successor of president Lula, who is leaving after his second term with record popularity. And because he endorsed her as his successor from the start, his popularity played an important part in Rousseff’s election.
She promised to “honour the trust” Brazilians had put in her and work to eliminate poverty.
In order to celebrate her victory, thousands of supporters of the governing Workers’ Party took to the streets across Brazil.
The Superior Electoral Court said that with almost all the votes counted, she had won 56% against 44% for her rival, Jose Serra of the Social Democratic Party.
Since under Brazilian law voting is mandatory for citizens between the ages of 18 and 70, about 135 million voters were expected to cast ballots on Sunday. But there was a high rate of abstention at 21.5%.
There was a second round of voting because on 3 October, Rousseff fell short of the 50% needed. She won 47% to Mr Serra’s 33%.
In her victory speech, she said her first priority would be to lift 20 million Brazilians out of poverty.
“I reiterate my fundamental promise: the eradication of poverty,” she said.
“We must not rest while there are Brazilians going hungry.”
According to her, her election as the country’s first female leader is a sign of the democratic progress Brazil had made.
She added that her priority is now to make sure that such equality of opportunity between men and women became the norm at every level.
“I would like parents who have daughters to look straight in their eyes and tell them: ‘Yes, a woman can.’“
‘Consolidate and advance’
Rousseff will be sworn in on 1 January. She is expected to continue the left-leaning policies of President Lula, with emphasis on government efficiency, expanding the role of the state in some sectors such as mining, and upgrading the country’s decrepit infrastructure.
After the discovery of major offshore fields, she will also oversee a huge expansion of the country’s oil industry,which should make Brazil one of the world’s top 10 oil exporters.
In both houses of Congress Rousseff can count on strengthened majorities for the governing coalition in order to help ease the task of pushing her legislative agenda.
After completing the maximum allowed two consecutive terms, Lula has to step down. He said he would not interfere in her government.
Rousseff will have “to form a government in her own image. I only hope she achieves more than I did”, he said after casting his vote.
He added that he would not be attending public victory celebrations because “this is her party”.
Rousseff paid tribute to her mentor, saying: “I will be knocking on his door often, which, I’m sure, will always be open.”
Succeeding Lula would be “difficult and challenging”, she said, “but I know how to honour his legacy. I know how to consolidate and advance his work.”
Rousseff is a former Marxist rebel who was jailed and tortured in 1970-72 for resisting military rule. She trained as an economist and worked her way up through local and state governments.
In 2003-2005, she joined president Lula’s cabinet as energy minister, before becoming his chief of staff.
After losing to Lula in 2002, this is the second time Jose Serra has been defeated in a presidential run-off.
He has congratulated Ms Rousseff and said he hoped she would work for the good of the country.
He said: “I proudly battled the president. To those of us imagining we’re defeated: We have only started the real fight.”