While the results of Brazil's presidential election offered no decisive victory for any of the leading candidates, it is still being hailed as a resounding success for the nation's environmental movement. Despite being eliminated from the running, Green Party candidate Marina Silva, an Amazon-born environmental activist, garnered an impressive portion of the votes, suggesting that the sustainability movement has gone mainstream in one of the world's most rapidly developing countries. Now, it very well may be Silva's endorsement that determines the next president of Brazil.
Leading up to the election, most political pundits predicted an overwhelming victory for Dilma Rousseff, the Worker's Party candidate hand-selected by Brazil's wildly popular President Lula. Just days prior, many polls showed that Dilma had over 50 percent of support. Ultimately, however, she only managed a surprisingly low 46.7 percent of the votes.
In Brazilian elections, if no one candidate receives at least half the votes, it forces a run-off between the two leading candidates.
Dilma's closest competitor, Social Democratic candidate Jose Serra, around whom much of the debate was centered, also fared worse than what was expected, receiving less that 33 percent of the vote. Both candidates geared their platforms on continuing much of the same economic and industrial policies which their predecessor implemented. But a third voice resounded louder than many imagined.
Despite polling suggesting that her support was in the low teens, Green Party candidate Marina Silva received nearly 20 percent of popular votes with her platform centered on furthering the environmental cause, which has been at the heart of her political career. As a member of the Worker's Party, Silva once served as Lula's Environmental Minister, earning international acclaim for her staunch support of rainforest protection and sustainable development. But after years of infighting with then Energy Minister Rousseff and numerous industrial interests within her own party, Silva resigned from that position and joined the Green Party.
Once outside the circle of support from Brazil's ruling party, few expected her to rally enough support to take the office when she announced herself as a candidate for the presidency, but the election results proved she was not alone in her environmental ideology.
"There are nearly 20 million Brazilians who understood her positions and who voted for her as an alternative... believing in a utopia, a possible country," writes Altino Machado, a journalist familiar with Silva's cause. He believes her support in the election reflects "the people's desire for change."
Realizing this desire, now Dilma and Serra must address an issue they largely neglected throughout their campaigns -- the cause of sustainability and responsible environmental policy -- on the heels of the run-off election to be held at the end of October. Now the media and political establishment must wait with baited breath to know which candidate Silva will endorse since her support will likely play a major role in determining who will be elected to the highest office.
For a nation which has undergone tremendous growth over the last decade, the new-found political clout of Silva and her cause will undoubtedly help shape the course Brazil's development into one that cannot neglect environmental responsibility. Although the phrase Order and Progress is inscribed upon the Brazilian flag and in the nation's modern consciousness, it would be unwise to forget the prominence of green there too.