The main candidates in Brazil's presidential election – Dilma Rousseff and José Serra – are stepping up at an important time in the country’s history.

Brazil is one of the only countries in the world with an expected GDP growth of over 5% for 2010. It has a buoyant housing market, rising export growth, energy self-sufficiency, and improving credit ratings. 

Concern however remains about government spending levels, and about the Real, widely viewed as over-valued. 

Below are the two main candidates' manifestos and profiles:

Dilma Rousseff:  a former guerrilla during military rule, Rousseff was appointed Chief of Staff in 2005 after the resignation of José Dirceu due to a corruption scandal (she was formerly Minister of Energy).  If elected, Rousseff would succeed Lula da Silva, the country’s historically most popular President (with an unprecedented 80% approval rating).

Rousseff has been eager to distance herself from the perception of simply being ‘in the right place at the right time’. 

Her pledges:

  • encourage a more flexible state sector, while actively supporting private enterprise;
  • reduce the inflation by half a percentage point to 4 percent by 2012 – although she has emphasised the need for this to be done in a careful and gradual manner;
  • increase national savings levels;
  • reduce public sector wage levels;
  • maintain central bank autonomy, which has proven a success;
  • rid the country of extreme poverty by 2016;
  • cut the state spending to enable the interest rates to be reduced in the coming years; and
  • impose additional taxes on capital inflows, to limit currency overvaluation.

 José Serra: the governor of São Paulo was one of the founders of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) in the 1980s.  An established statesman, he pledges:

  • to maintain market friendly policies.  Many commentators believe he will adopt a less interventionist approach, quoting his authorisation of the sale of São Paulo state bank Nossa Caixa in 2009;
  • adopt stricter fiscal discipline to enable swifter interest rate cuts and tax easing;
  • monitor state spending better – despite its high global tax burden, investment levels in Brazil are low;
  • push the Central Bank to drop national interest rates;
  • encourage exports. If elected, it is predicted he will aggressively push the Real down
  • reinforce industry regulation across a wide variety of sectors;
  • cool established ties with other South American countries, such as Bolivia and Venezuela.