Sunday, 3 October 2010

Brazilians take to the polls

As I write, millions of Brazilians are heading to the polls to vote for their next president, one to replace the charismatic “Lula”, who has largely been credited with fuelling the country’s burgeoning economic growth.
I’ve been reading a lot about Lula’s legacy but one comment stood out for me. While Lula is expected to leave office after two terms with a huge 81% approval rating, not everyone believes he deserves all the praise that has been heaped on him, including his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who told the Financial Times: “I did the reforms, Lula surfed the wave.”

Whether he’s right or wrong doesn’t really matter, though. Whatever industry you work in, talent will only take you so far; wit and charm are just as important.
Look at Tony Blair. He didn’t win the 1997 elections simply because of his policies; he had charisma and represented – at the time at least – a polar opposite to the Tory leaders before him.
When people become disengaged or disheartened, they seek something different and that’s what Lula brought to Brazil. I won’t go into the politics – I’m not an expert and so don’t want to patronise those you are – but Lula was Brazil’s first working-class leader in a country where the gap between rich and poor is so vast, yet, geographically, the two live so close to each other. Many Brazilians simply identified with Lula on a personal level.
If Lula’s presidency was only skin deep, we will soon find out. And while he has clocked up a list of enviable achievements, there is still a lot of work to be done. His successor is expected to be Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s chief of staff. If she wins, she will be become Brazil’s first female president.
Whoever wins, the new president will only officially take over on January 1, 2011. So in the meantime, I'll throw in my extra tuppence to Lula's legacy: doesn't he share a striking resemblance to George Lucas?

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