Global Politics

Brazil's presidential campaign has all the drama of the country's famed telenovelas

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Marina Silva campaigns with presidential candidate, Eduardo Campos, before his death last week.

Credit:

Agencia Brasil

Brazil is famous for its dramatic TV soap operas, the telenovelas. But that sort of drama is nothing compared to the latest plot twists in the country's presidential election.

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Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos was killed last week in a plane crash. And now his running mate, 56-year old environmentalist Marina Silva, is poised to replace him.

And while Campos had been running a distant third in the polls, the latest survey shows Silva threatening to derail the re-election hopes of Brazil's sitting president, Dilma Rousseff.

“There’s been a fair amount of hysteria around the crash,” says Sao Paulo-based reporter Ben Tavener. “It’s shocked a lot of people.”

The latest poll, Tavener says, indicates the crash has been a game-changer. Some of the support must be simple sympathy, Tavener adds. But he says Silva is also in some ways a stronger candidate than Campos.

“She’s very well known,” says Tavener. She ran for president in her own right as a candidate for the Green Party in 2010 and came in third. Before that, she was an outspoken senator and a government minister, for the environment.

Before that, Silva was a high profile environmental activist; a friend and colleague of the famous activist, Chico Mendes, before his assassination in 1988. Silva herself is the daughter of a family of poor, black rubber-tappers in the Amazon basin.

In particular, she has drawn in a lot of people disillusioned with the political process, who in previous polls had said they were not planning to vote or were planning to spoil their ballot papers.

She is also an evangelical Christian, which Tavener says is a significant factor in a nation that is now believed to be 30 percent evangelical.

Silva was supposed to be aboard the plane that went down last week, killing Campos. She is not a fan of flying and decided not to go aboard at the last minute. She is calling that an "act of providence." Silva has not yet been confirmed as the candidate to replace Campos, but Tavener says that after this opinion poll, “they’d be mad” not to confirm her.

Silva is not related to former president, Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva. If elected, Silva would be the country’s first black president.