The World from Berlin 'Brazil's Rousseff Should Not Merely Copy Lula'

Dilma Rousseff, the first woman elected president in Brazil, has large shoes to fill. Her predecessor,  Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been called the "most popular politician on Earth." But German commentators say she'll have to step out of Lula's shadow sooner or later.

Newly-elected Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Newly-elected Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

It is seen as a vote for continuity. On Sunday, Brazilian voters elected Dilma Rousseff to succeed President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the country's wildly popular leader who has succeeded in narrowing the gap between rich and poor in recent years and giving the middle class a boost.

But just how true Dilma Rousseff, the country's first woman president, will be to Lula's path remains to be seen. The daughter of Bulgarian immmigrants, Rousseff is thought to be much more hands-on then Lula. She told the international press in the wake of the at times contentious campaign that she wanted "to be the president for all Brazilians."

Rousseff, 62, is a former Marxist guerilla and rose to become energy secretary and chief of staff under Lula, who was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term due to term limitation laws. She is expected to further integrate Brazil with South America and other developing nations and to continue the country's pull-back from Europe and the US. Still, she remains a relative unknown to outside observers.

German editorialists were left pondering Tuesday what a Rousseff presidency would really look like, and several encouraged the newly-elected leader to follow in the footsteps of the man US President Barack Obama has called "the most popular politician on Earth."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Now the future of Brazil is named Dilma Rousseff. She should continue what (Lula) achieved. Lula is probably one of the most popular heads of state on the planet, but a third term is prohibited by the constitution…Lula is leaving behind an incredible legacy: The once slovenly giant nation has turned into a stable democracy and into a member of the so-called Bric-Countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China."

"Rousseff should not just copy Lula. The daughter of Bulgarian immigrants acts demure, but she embodies a lot of what makes up the new politics in the region. She is another former opponent of a dictatorship who made it into a presidential palace via the moderate-left. Brazil will miss Lula's charisma, but could perhaps use some female circumspection."

The conservative Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung writes:

"One of the most fascinating questions in Brazilian politics will be if, and then when, Rousseff will step out of the shadows of her predecessor. She should hold on to the basic principles of Lula's core policies of a free market economy, just like Lula held on to the successful policies of his predecessor, Cardoso, in 2002. It deserves recognition that the enormous revenue generated from the huge demand from Asia in raw materials, and the resulting economic growth, was directed into the right channels."

"A largely unwritten page is Rousseff's role as stateswoman. In this area, Brazil was also catapulted almost over-night into the 21st century. It has become a regional power with global political ambitions."

"From day one, the woman at the helm in Brazil will be watched by the world's public, and her mentor Lula has already signaled that he won't let her out of his sight. It is very possible that in 2014 he himself will run for president again."

The business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"There is no question: Brazil has seen impressive development during Lula's tenure. The economy will grow by 7 percent this year, poverty is down, and inflation and the national debt are under control. Brazil wants to be one of the top five global economies by 2020. On the way (to that goal), however, there are such enormous challenges that can't just be done by simply continuing established policies. Even if she wasn't elected to implement groundbreaking reforms, Rousseff has no choice but to introduce such changes."

"Rousseff has signaled that she will tackle the long-delayed reforms of the inefficient taxation system and will practice budgetary discipline. She needs to put the brakes on public spending without stifling growth. That alone, though, won't be enough to keep Brazil's economy vigorous in the long term. Rousseff needs to make Brazil independent from its raw materials and strengthen the export of manufactured goods."

The left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Under Brazil's lead, South America is beginning to release itself from its neo-colonial dependence on the United States and Europe. The election of Serra (José Serra, Rousseff's centrist opponent) would have been a major setback on that path. Thus, Rousseff's success is also a victory for internationally-minded leftists worldwide."

"Many in the Western media are skeptical. The London-based weekly Economist, which has praised and idolized Lula for years ..., spoke out before the elections explicitly in favor of Serra. And SPIEGEL ONLINE expects under Rousseff a 'Country without Splendor' and wrote: 'The new world power wobbles.'"

"Rousseff would do well to follow Lula's independent and confident course since the current president is leaving office with record-breaking approval ratings as the most popular head of state in decades."

-- Mary Beth Warner


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