In a First, Brazil Elects a Woman as President

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Dilma Rousseff was elected the country’s first female president on Sunday, as Brazilians voted strongly in favor of continuing the economic and social policies of the popular president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Ms. Rousseff, who served as Mr. da Silva’s chief of staff and energy minister, joins a growing wave of democratically elected female leaders in the region and the world in the past five years, including Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina and Angela Merkel in Germany.

Ms. Rousseff, 62, defeated José Serra, the former governor of São Paulo, with 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent, official numbers showed.

In choosing Ms. Rousseff, who has no elected political experience, voters sent a message that they preferred to give the governing Workers Party more time to broaden the successful economic policies of Mr. da Silva, whose government deepened economic stability and lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty and into the lower middle classes.

In her victory speech, Ms. Rousseff pledged to focus on eradicating poverty, which she described as an “abyss that still keeps us from being a developed nation.” She has indicated that she favors giving the state greater control over the economy, especially the oil industry, potentially steering the country further to the left.

After serving two four-year terms, Mr. da Silva was barred from seeking re-election, and he hand-picked Ms. Rousseff to be his successor, campaigning tirelessly for her.

“He treated this campaign like a re-election campaign,” a sociologist, Demétrio Magnoli, said on television on Sunday night.

Though she could not match Mr. da Silva’s charisma, Ms. Rousseff won Sunday by dominating the north and northeastern parts of the country, as well as the key swing states Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais.

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