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dilma4Brazilians voted for a new president on Sunday night, with Dilma Rousseff coming out top in the first round ahead of Aecio Neves and Marina Silva.

Dilma took 42 % and will face Aecio, who got 34 %, in a run off on Oct. 26. (See all results here.)

It was a depressing moment for me, with voters opting for Dilma, in spite of the fact that during her administration the economy has slowed, she’s done nothing to make Brazil more open or more attractive to the outside world, and the incredible changes brought about by her predecessor have slowed noticeably.

Not that voters had much option. Aecio is distant and relatively unknown outside his heartlands of Minas and Rio and he heads a party that has been stagnant for years in terms of leadership and ideas.

Marina was a change candidate, but is riven with contradictions and allows religion to play way too much of a role in her political life.

Most disappointing of all was the fact that the June 2013 protests, where millions took to the streets to demand lower bus fares, better public services and less corruption, were, as I’ve been saying for a year, nothing more than a few days of fun and frolics.

Those demands were forgotten completely and Brazilians were happy to elect the same old tired, questionable, right-wing, anti-progressive candidates who oppose abortion, gay marriage, police reform and other basic issues that are absolutely necessary if Brazil is to become a modern society.

As the results came in, I riffed on twitter with the following 10 unbelievable things I was seeing.

1 – SP reelect Geraldo Alckmin resoundingly after brutal police crack downs and as drought approaches.

2 – Failed mayor Cesar Maia comes second in Rio Senate election.

3 – Rio put Crivella in gubernatorial run off against Pezao. The candidates were bad, but Crivella!?

4 – 41 % of Brazilians still vote for Dilma as growth falls, inflation rises and there’s absolutely no sign things will change in new term.

5 – A third of Brazilians see the PSDB – a party that has gone 8 years with no new leaders and no new ideas – as a viable alternative.

6 – It is frightening that in a major 21st century democracy all of the leading candidates are anti-abortion.

7 – A woman who consults God before making policy decisions may help decide who is Brazil’s next president. Now, that’s worrying.

8 – SP is one of Brazil’s most educated states. The 3 most voted deputies are a former TV salesman, a clown and an outspoken anti-gay pastor.

9 – Many people thought the June protests were a harbinger of a new Brazil. They were nothing more than a big fight/party over bus fares.

10 – And the most unbelievable thing to me about Brazilian elections is…..People take religious leaders seriously.

Bonus 11 – Rio de Janeiro, the “coolest” state, voted as No.1 deputy Jairo Bolsonaro, an unapologetic, right-wing, anti-gay misanthrope. Sigh

My twitter: @adowniebrazil

One of the tragic consequences of Dilma Rousseff’s failure to win a first round victory is that the Workers’ Party is discussing caving in to the right-wing fanatics and coming out more strongly against abortion. (See the front page story in today’s Folha de S. Paulo.)

Abortion is already illegal in Brazil in all but the most extreme circumstances (when the foetus is already brain dead or in cases of rape).

But up to 1 million illegal abortions are still performed each year, according to reproductive health organisations. For upper class women, they pose no danger; they are carried out in modern and well-equipped clinics in the best neighbourhoods and police look the other way.

But for the poor, these back-street operations are exactly that. They are fraught with danger. Brazil’s own Health Ministry says 200,000 women are hospitalised each year because their back street operations have gone wrong.

That’s hospitalised. Not taken to hospital, or looked over by a doctor, but actually have to spend the night in a ward because their injuries are so severe.

(I wrote this Time magazine piece back in June after reading a study that showed one-in-five Brazilian women of child-bearing age have had an abortion.)

Dilma, Marina and Serra are all content to let that  tragedy continue.

Serra is a former doctor and Health Minister and should know better. The PT, as the party that claims to have the best interest of the poor at heart, should be protecting them and offering abortions to those who most need it.

But Marina, a hard core Evangelical, is even more guilty. Evangelicals launched an internet campaign claiming Dilma would decriminalise abortion and that is what caused Dilma to lose votes, according to news reports.

Because of that the PT are cravenly pampering to those fanatics ahead of the second round vote.

Brazil wants to be taken seriously as modern and developed nation. That’s a tough sell while it continues with an absurd and antiquated abortion policy.

I wrote two stories today recapping and analysing the weekend election results.

One piece appeared in Time magazine, which is basically a short analysis of what we can expect in the second round. And this one in the Christian Science Monitor is a straighter report of the weekend’s winners and losers.

The big surprise of course was the performance of Green Party candidate Marina Silva.

I spoke to a number of people outside a polling station in Brasiliandia, one of Sao Paulo’s gritty North Side neighbourhoods. I was shocked at how many people said they were voting for Marina. Of the dozen or so people I interviewed more than half said they were voting for her.

When you get that sort of response you never know if it is representative of the bigger picture. There could be any number of reasons one polling station or area or city supports a particular candidate and until that point there was no reason to believe the polls that gave Marina around 14 percent of the vote were substantially incorrect. Even though a lot of people said they supported her, it was hard for me to believe that she was really going to make an impact.

It was only when the results came in and she got 19 percent that I realized what I had seen was no fluke.

Marina will be a key player over the next few weeks, and probably over the next few years, too. But I think a lot of people are overestimating her influence in the second round ballot.

Her voters won’t all go to Serra and Dilma only needs 3 percent to secure victory. Dilma should still win quite comfortably, especially given that Lula will be out there shilling for her at every turn.

As analyst Christopher Garman told me about Dilma:

“All she has to do is stick to the message. Brazilian voters are optimistic about the future, they are satisfied with the status quo so her message has to be, You either stay the course of go back to the Cardoso years.”

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