Rousseff wins, but women remain marginal in Brazilian politics

Last Updated on Monday, 27 October 2014, 21:46 by GxMedia

President Dilma Rousseff

By Eduardo Davis

Brasilia, Oct 27 (EFE).- Brazilians gave President Dilma Rousseff a second four-year term, but female officeholders remain a small minority in a country where women are 52 percent of the electorate.

Rousseff, who took office in January 2011, defeated Sen. Aecio Neves by 51.6 percent to 48.3 percent in Sunday’s presidential runoff.

The incumbent and Neves emerged from the Oct. 5 first round as the top two vote-getters among a field of 11 candidates, only three of them – including Rousseff – women.

After briefly leading in the polls, former Environment Minister Marina Silva ended up in third place, while leftist candidate Luciana Genro received only 1.5 percent of the vote.

Polls had projected a runoff between Rousseff and Silva, but it never happened, leaving Chile as the only Latin American country where two women have gone head-to-head in a presidential contest: the December 2013 runoff that saw Michelle Bachelet defeat Evelyn Matthei.

In Brazil, the advent of Rousseff as the first female head of state since the country became a republic has not brought about any substantial shift toward gender equality in politics.

Women accounted for less than 31 percent of the 24,900 candidates for congressional and state office in the Oct. 5 elections.

A 1997 law requires Brazil’s political parties to reserve for women at least 30 percent of their nominations for elective offices.

This year, women won a mere 51 of the 513 seats in the federal lower house, while the new Senate will comprise 70 men and 11 women.

Among a total of 171 candidates for Brazil’s 27 state governorships, 17 were women and all but one of those hopefuls were eliminated in the first round.

The sole female survivor, Suely Campos was elected governor of Roraima in Sunday’s second round, but the two female sitting governors will be leaving in December.

Term limits kept Maranhao Gov. Roseana Sarney from seeking another term. Rosalva Ciarlini of Rio Grande do Norte was dumped by her own party in the face of abysmal poll numbers.

Thus Brazil has returned to the situation in 1998, when there was only one female state governor.

A similar panorama prevails at municipal level, where the 2012 elections resulted in only 657 female mayors, 11.8 percent of the total.

And though Rousseff pledged in 2011 to increase female participation at the highest levels of the federal government, only seven of her 30 Cabinet ministers are women