Green party candidate Marina Silva captured 19 percent of the vote in Brazil’s presidential election over the weekend, shocking analysts and forcing a run off between Dilma Rousseff, outgoing President Lula’s hand-picked successor, and José Serra.
With her strong showing, Silva is now seen as the king or queen maker in the election. She may now be able to force a debate on the environmental issues she build her campaign around, according to Alfredo Sirkis, the Green party’s president in Rio de Janeiro, who spoke to the Guardian. These issues include a proposed revision to the country’s forest code, which could affect deforestation in the Amazon; new infrastructure projects in ecologically sensitive areas; and Brazil’s commitment to fighting climate change.
Silva grew up in poverty in the Amazon state of Acre and was illiterate until the age of 16. She became an activist on behalf of rainforest rubber tappers and eventually rose to senator and Minister of Environment under President Lula, until she resigned in 2008 over plans for new infrastructure projects in the Amazon. Last year Silva was awarded Norway’s $100,000 Sophie Prize for her efforts to protect the world’s largest rainforest.
The run-off for president will come on October 31. Silva will not be on the ballot, meaning her nearly 20 million supporters will need to choose between the two run-off candidates.