Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is enjoying an extraordinary level of approval for a president now in her second year in office. She is more popular than her predecessors were at this stage in their terms, despite a plethora of corruption scandals and increasing opposition from members of her own multi-party coalition, who have been frustrated by her reluctance to distribute enough government jobs and political favours. Ms Rousseff has also sought to raise her profile on the international stage, although results in this area have been mixed.
The president’s popularity can be attributed to her deft handling of an economic slowdown (to which her government has responded with a range of stimulus measures) and her willingness to investigate, and oust, cabinet ministers and advisors accused of corruption (six of her ministers resigned in her first year in office). Her approval ratings are not only at the highest level since she was inaugurated in January 2011, but are also among the best for any democratically elected leader in the world.
According to a March opinion poll by a research firm, Ibope, Ms Rousseff’s approval rate stood at 77%, up by five percentage points from December 2011. This compares with 54% for her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva, at the same stage in his presidency (15 months) and 57% for the prior president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Her support is stronger in the northeast (82%), but it is also high in the southeast (75%), a region that has often supported the opposition. This shows that her support base is more expansive than Lula’s (whose backing was concentrated in the northeast and among low-income voters) and also reflects her increasing popularity among the growing middle class, together with still-strong support among poorer Brazilians.
Firm but flexible governance
Voters seem to approve of Ms Rousseff’s firm style of governing, including her determined attitude towards Congress (the legislature). She recently managed to defuse another rebellion by the centrist Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB) and other smaller parties of her broad-based congressional coalition. She also has secured legislative approval of some key bills, including a civil servants’ pension reform (Funpresp) and the World Cup bill (which provides the legal framework for the upcoming World Cup games).
She has faced some setbacks, however. On April 26th lawmakers passed a controversial forestry code, which pits landowners against environmentalists, without the compromises the government had carefully negotiated. Ms Rousseff could veto the law, though this could be overridden by a simple majority vote by legislators. The law eases the rules, designed to reduce deforestation, mandating the amount of land farmers must preserve.
Overall, however, Ms Rousseff has shown that her firm style does not necessarily entail a state of permanent confrontation and gridlock with Congress. She has proven flexible and, when she has needed specific projects to be approved (like Funpresp), she has been ready to release some funds to please allied parties. The upcoming municipal elections in October 2012 will be an important test of Ms Rousseff’s popularity and of the current balance of power within the ruling alliance (especially between the PMDB and the governing Partido dos Trabalhadores) and among other political forces ahead of the presidential election of 2014. It is widely assumed that Ms Rousseff will seek another term.
Foreign policy record is mixed
The president’s recent forays on the international stage have also demonstrated her toughness, though the results have been mixed. She has stepped up her diplomatic activities in recent months, demonstrating a firm style in her dealings with foreign counterparts, including the US. Within less than two months, she met with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and with the leaders of Russia, India, China and South Africa during a BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) summit in the Indian capital, New Delhi. She also had a separate meeting with the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, before meeting the US president, Barack Obama, in Washington and attending the Summit of the Americas in Colombia in mid-April.
These trips have helped to raise Ms Rousseff’s profile internationally, but have not substantially furthered Brazil’s foreign policy goals. Starting with the US visit, Ms Rousseff managed to include in the discussions the suspension of a military procurement contract that Embraer (a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer) initially won with the US Air Force, which was later cancelled, demanding that the US honour it. However, the more important issue of Brazil’s desire for a permanent seat at the UN’s Security Council (a goal of the country’s foreign policy for at least two decades) was barely mentioned. Ms Rousseff was not granted state visit treatment, and she did not receive the same kind of backing that Mr Obama has given to the Indian premier, who also wants a Security Council seat.
Moreover, Ms Rousseff’s repeated attacks against the “currency war” have caused unease in Europe and the US for some time, and the fact that Ms Rousseff reiterated the issue prominently during her meetings with Ms Merkel and Mr Obama (as well as at the Summit of the Americas later on) caused some irritation (especially in Germany). The fact that Brazil blames developed countries for the currency war, but carefully avoids any criticism of China (now Brazil’s main trading partner), does not help Ms Rousseff’s argument either.
With respect to Brazil’s effort to boost its leadership role among emerging economies, initiatives such as trade in local currencies (by-passing the US dollar) or the creation of a common development bank among the BRIC economies (which would act as a counterbalance to the World Bank) are unlikely to advance in the short to medium term. Brazil and other developing countries did not even manage to agree on a common candidate for the presidency of the World Bank as an alternative to the US candidate, who ultimately got the post.
(Source: viewswire.eiu.com)@1 year ago
#The Economist #The Economist Intelligence Unit #EIU Country Report