World Cup a minefield for Brazil's Rousseff in election year

Sun May 25, 2014 10:53am EDT
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By Alexandre Caverni and Anthony Boadle

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - The script was simple enough: host the soccer World Cup, win it for a record sixth time and ride a wave of national euphoria to another four years in power.

Yet Brazil's ruling Workers' Party may find it's not that easy.

Recent history shows little correlation between being crowned world soccer champions and winning elections, despite endless speculation to the contrary among Brazilians of all political stripes.

At best, President Dilma Rousseff could get a temporary bump from a victory for the heavily-fancied home team in July but it would likely wear off in a few weeks, leaving more than two months for reality to set back in before election day on October 5.

At worst, a disastrous early exit from the tournament could add to frustrations with the way Brazil is run and fuel a growing desire for change.

With no home team to root for, more Brazilians might feel tempted to join anti-World Cup street protests, creating a potentially volatile situation for Rousseff to manage.

Indeed, what was supposed to be a moment of national pride has instead become a political minefield for a president whose popularity is already waning.

A string of violent protests last year during a smaller soccer tournament here drew hundreds of thousands onto the streets and dramatically raised the political stakes at the World Cup, which starts on June 12 in Sao Paulo.   Continued...

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during the graduation ceremony of new diplomats at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino