Global Ethics Corner: Handpicking Successors and the Brazilian Elections

Nov 12, 2010

Brazil's President Lula da Silva handpicked Dilma Rousseff as his successor, even though she has never held political office. How important is continuity in governments? Is handpicking a successor acceptable in order to win an election or to direct a government? What do you think?

How important is continuity in governments?

Brazil's President Lula da Silva is heralded globally for a successful economy and for funding the poor. Brazilian law prevented him from seeking a third term; so, he handpicked a successor—Dilma Rousseff, his chief of staff.

Rousseff had never held elected office, spending her career as a political advisor, and in the 1980s she was a socialist and underwent torture by the military dictatorship.

On the campaign trail, Rousseff learned a lot about electioneering, and analysts noted better speeches as well as an image makeover. The presidential election required a runoff—but in the end, Rousseff won.

Many credit Lula with her victory. In the 1980s and 90s, Brazil survived a string of weak presidencies, which wreaked havoc with the nation's economy and caused uncontrollable inflation. This could explain why voters chose a candidate who is closely aligned with Lula, a known and successful figure.

However, Rousseff's election begs a question: How far should predecessors go in selecting and managing future administrations? In Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev is labeled by some as a puppet for predecessor Vladmir Putin.

Gender is another factor. Other female presidents in Latin America had ties to popular male predecessors and little experience in office, for instance, in Argentina, Cristina Kirchner.

The Economist wondered whether Rousseff is "Lula in Lipstick." If Rousseff is not a puppet for Lula, then her limited public exposure makes it hard to predict whether she will be a good leader.

What do you think? Should one popular administration dictate the next? Is hand picking a successor acceptable in order to win an election or to direct a government?

By Julia Taylor Kennedy

Photo Credits in order of Appearance:

Valter Campanato/ABr
Around the Rings
Aloizio Mercadante Oliva
Rede Brasil Atual
Aloizio Mercadante Oliva
Aloizio Mercadante Oliva
José Cruz/ABr
Isaac Ribero
Aloizio Mercadante Oliva
Bruno Buccalon
Rede Brasil Atual

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