May 25, 2013
Rousseff's popularity rises despite slowing economy
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's popularity is at its highest level since taking office, buoyed by her handling of an economic slowdown and tough stance against corruption, a poll showed on Wednesday.
Rousseff's approval rating surged to 77 percent at mid-March from 72 percent in December, according to the survey carried out by Brazilian polling firm Ibope. That puts Rousseff, who had never run for public office before winning the presidency, among the most popular democratically elected leaders in the world.
Rousseff, 64, was sworn in as Brazil's first female president in January 2011, succeeding her hugely popular political mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula, as the former president is widely known, left office with an even higher approval rating than Rousseff's, just below the 90 percent mark.
Lula, a folksy former union leader, presided over an economic boom that lifted more than 20 million Brazilians out of poverty, with the economy expanding at a blistering 7.5 percent in his last year in office.
Latin America's largest economy has cooled under Rousseff, hit by fallout from the European debt crisis and slowing growth in China, expanding a disappointing 2.7 percent in 2011. But Rousseff has remained popular throughout thanks to strong job growth and rising wages, which have helped cushion the impact of the economic chill.
"There was a 14 percent increase in the minimum wage which mainly reaches those within lower income brackets and that brought a positive effect in her approval rating," said Flavio Castelo Branco, executive director of economic policy at the National Industry Confederation, which commissioned the poll.
Rousseff, a career technocrat who lacks Lula's charisma, has also benefited from the perception that she is being tough on corruption, a malady that has long plagued Brazilian politics. Six of Rousseff's ministers were forced to resign in her first year in office over corruption allegations.