Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff will be celebrating on Sunday her first of four years in office with a record public opinion support of 72%, based on a sober and firm style in running what has become the world’s sixth largest economy.
The first woman president of Brazil imposed a style very different from her predecessor and political mentor Lula da Silva: she addresses issues in a more managerial and less political way; more discrete and without the spontaneous charisma of the former union leader.
“Her style is harder, more like a manager, with the image of an iron lady who confronts corruption and this pleases the traditional middle class” according to Ricardo Ribeiro from MCM public opinion consultants.
For Renato Fonseca from pollsters Ibope, the record popularity is founded on the way she faces corruption, but above all “Brazilians satisfaction with the running of the economy”
Rousseff lost six ministers to corruption allegations in six months including Sports which has become crucial since Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
But governance and the economy are some of the challenges for the next year.
“In the second year the positive inertia inherited from the administration of President Lula da Silva, who finished with a support of 80% and the economy expanding at 7.5% will lose strength and there could be demands for deep reforms if the global crisis reaches Brazil and the ruling coalition disputes and corruption claims persist”, according to Augusto de Castro from BrazilPolitics.
Controlling a coalition of ten parties, traditionally not too loyal and with their own interests is not easy, particularly in 2012 with elections in 5.000 cities and towns all over the country.
“If Rousseff manages to retain popularity, she will be the natural option for the 2014 presidential election” anticipates Ribeiro.
The third most powerful woman in the world, according to Forbes, Rousseff has made economic resistance the main instrument of her economic policy with tough measures to defend and promote home industry and consumption.
The Brazilian economy expanded 7.5% last year and is expected to be in the range of 3% in 2011, because of the global crisis, but 2012 remains an open question. Government estimates 4%, even 5%, but private consultants are not so optimistic.
However Rousseff promised that 2012 will be a prosperous year for Brazilians, better than in 2011, well aware that further contraction of the economy would imperil her plans to lift from poverty and misery 16 million Brazilians and the social advances achieved by Lula da Silva who turned 28 million poor Brazilians into to consumers.
But Economy Minister admits that much is still needed in infrastructure, health services and quality education before Brazil reaches European levels, maybe in twenty years.
In foreign policy Rousseff is not so fond of travelling as Lula da Silva, and has been involved in a more practical and less rhetoric agenda. South America tops the list of priorities, according to foreign affairs advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia.
“Dilma is interested in bringing together positions in the region and with the big emerging countries, and wants more international weight for Brazil in accordance with the might of its emerging economy, particularly in global forums and international organizations such as the IMF, UN or G20”, says Garcia.
But this does not mean she forgets about the large partners: Rousseff hosted US president Barack Obama earlier in the year and travelled to China, nor does she leave aside Africa under much influence of Chinese investments but where Brazil has a growing presence in trade, investment and other exchanges taking advantage of common cultural and ethnic background.