Brazil’s economy is the world’s seventh largest and the country is an important part of the emerging global economic power of the group roughly categorised as the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). This means that Brazil’s economic success is a matter of global interest and its current languishing in slow growth is a global problem.

The incumbent government of President Dilma Rousseff has failed to address many of these issues, even if Rousseff‘s Workers Party’s paternal interventionism and its new income redistribution programme won unexpected favour with the voters late in the first round of the presidential vote and got her an impressive 41.4 per cent. She will now face the pro-business Aecio Neves of the Social Democratic party in the second round, who achieved a late surge that boosted his vote to 33.7 per cent, leaving former environment minister Marina Silva, who had led the polls at one stage, well behind with 21.3 per cent.

The next round could be tight and will depend on whether Rousseff succeeds in defending her economic record and continuing to persuade the voters that they will be better off with her, or if Neves succeeds in showing her up for lack of vigour on opening up the economy and developing a more competitive industrial base. The result could also swing dramatically if the disappointed Silva gives Neves a powerful endorsement, which she seems to be hinting at.

This tight election is something new for Brazil, which, for some years, has had elections with strong favourites who have done well. The 143 million Brazilian voters are all required to vote by law and have taken a keen interest in the elections sensing their power. When the campaign started, Rousseff had been expected to win outright, but the tragic death in an air crash of the Socialist candidate Eduardo Campos catapulted Silva into running and opinion polls put her on top of the race, until some poor TV debates and comments, as well as the professionalism of the two larger parties, forced her back into third place.