Workers’ party candidate becomes Brazil’s president

Ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff won Brazil’s presidential run-off election Sunday and vowed to continue the policies of the popular outgoing President Luiz Inacio da Silva.

Dilma Rousseff

Ms. Rousseff told supporters in a victory speech in the capital, Brasilia, that she will continue the current government’s social welfare and economic policies.

Ms. Rousseff made the comment, shortly after she was declared the winner.

Brazil’s high electoral tribunal said Ms. Rousseff of the Partido Democrático Trabalhista received 56 percent of the votes, while her opponent Jose Serra of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira had 44 percent.

Ms. Rousseff will be sworn in as president Jan. 1 as the country’s first female president. She replaces her political mentor, President da Silva. The widely popular president is required to step down after serving two consecutive four-year terms in office.

Experts say the next president will face many challenges, including how to address high government spending and a recent drop in Brazilian exports.

Voters were also electing governors in several states Sunday.

For many voters, the election was seen as a referendum on President Lula and whether his leftist party should remain in power.

At one polling station in Sao Paulo, student Eduardo Castanho said he supports Ms. Rousseff.

Castanho said he wants to see the current party remain in power, adding that he disagreed with some of Serra’s decisions as state governor.

Since President da Silva took office, spending has increased on social welfare programs, such as the popular family allowance program aimed at cutting poverty and boosting school enrollment in poor areas. Officials say the program helps 12 million families and has cut the number of people living in extreme poverty by more than half.

Critics of the government say officials have used social-welfare programs to buy voter support, especially in rural parts of northeastern Brazil.

After casting his ballot for Serra, retiree Clovis Vilas-Boas said the current government has shown a failure of ethics.

He said populist schemes to buy voter support and win elections only hurt Brazil in the long run.

Many voters said both candidates have failed to offer specifics on the policies and proposals they would enact, if elected.

Former bank worker Teresa Salotti said she was disappointed that both candidates offered little more than vague promises. She said she voted only because the law requires her to do so.

Ms. Salotti said she would rather stay home and not vote, because neither candidate is likely to fulfill the promises they made during the campaign.

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