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On Sunday, Brazilians elected their first woman president in what many commentators labeled a mandate to continue the popular policies of outgoing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

In her first speech as president-elect, Dilma Rousseff thanked many people but did not thank God—something many voters had expected her to do amid a campaign drenched in outreach to evangelical voters. Dispute over Rousseff's support for same-sex marriage and abortion led both her and defeated candidate Jose Serra to turn to pastor-advisors and Christian outreach committees to gain evangelical sympathy.

But what drew the most attention about evangelical voters came in an earlier round of voting, as nearly 20 million Brazilians cast votes for Marina Silva, a former environment minister and committed Assemblies of God member from a small party with little money. With more than 19 percent of the vote, Silva forced an unexpected runoff between Rousseff and Serra.

The largest private research institute in Brazil, IBOPE, noted that Rousseff lost many votes in the final weeks of the first round because her positions on abortion and homosexuality generated insecurity and dissatisfaction among evangelicals and Catholics, two large groups that are often at odds in the country but rally together on these two themes in political seasons.

However, two leading sociologists of Brazilian Christianity, Paul Freston and Alexandre Brasil Fonseca, argued that there is not as much such cohesion and unity among evangelical voters as some observers presumed. Evangelical voters were also split between Rousseff and Serra. This is especially true of neo-Pentecostals, whose 10 million members often belong to large churches with strong media clout.

The power struggle ...

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November 2010

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