Brazil voters elected Dilma Rousseff in hopes of extending the
policies of popular outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
After handing over the sash of office Jan. 1, what will Lula do
Now that Dilma Rousseff has been elected as Brazil's new
president, the big question in voters' minds is not only what she
will do in her four-year term but what will become of her
predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He has been the face of a rising Brazil for the past decade,
emerging as one of the most popular presidents in history. Sensible
economic policies, a commodities boom that brought in huge amounts
of foreign currency, and an assistance program that lifted millions
out of poverty have translated into approval ratings hovering at 80
percent today. In two terms in office, Mr. da Silva, known as Lula,
carved a role for himself in diplomatic circles as Brazil became an
important player in trade and climate-change talks.
In fact, Ms. Rousseff's victory was easy because Brazilians back
Lula's policies and want them to continue. For many it is hard to
imagine a political landscape without him in the foreground. As
bestselling newsmagazine Veja asked in a cover story: 'He'll leave
the Presidency. But will the presidency leave him?'
Everyone in Brazil wants to know: What will Lula do next? "As a
political fact, it's causing great curiosity," says Ricardo Caldas,
a political scientist at the University of Brasilia.
A looming presence
Lula's presence threatens to loom over Rousseff's presidency,
just as his charisma has overshadowed all other political players
over the last eight years - something that won't change overnight,
analysts say. He will continue to wield considerable influence
inside the government and the Workers' Party (PT).
"[Dilma] has little control over the PT, and Lula is the
principal leader of the party," says Ricardo Ribeiro, a political
analyst at MCM Political Consultants in Sao Paulo, Brazil. "If Lula
decides he wants one thing and Dilma wants another, she can't
challenge him. If there is a disagreement, Lula will have the final
Rousseff was elected with 56 percent of the vote in the Oct. 31
runoff election, thanks to the support of Lula, who handpicked her
as his successor. It is support that many say Rousseff could not
have done without since she had never before run for political
office and she has no political base, having only joined the PT in
2001. She lacks Lula's charm and magnetism. Though respected for her
courage, intellect, and administrative talents, she is also seen as
authoritarian and gruff. …