Will Rousseff or Serra follow Lula in Brazil?

Will Rousseff or Serra follow Lula in Brazil?

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Me from Brazil looks at this autumn’s presidential election

It’s been over a year since Dan Hamilton wrote an amazing article about the presidential election in Brazil. It has been a boring campaign until about a month ago, but considering that the Constitution does not allow any kind of campaign at this point, it’s understandable that things are a bit slow.

Lula and his candidate, Dilma Rousseff, are now firmly favourite. Her alliance is broader than José Serra’s, and she has Palocci on her side, the ex-finance minister who resigned because of a scandal and has a lot of prestige with the business class, which makes the task of raising money a lot easier. But most of all, she has the support of Lula, the president holds an approval of 78% (according to the last Datafolha poll) and between those who approve his government, 46% intend to vote for his candidate. With all that it’s not difficult to understand why those close to Lula talk privately of winning in the first round.

Dilma has 9 parties supporting her candidacy, including PMDB – the biggest party, and probably most important of all them because a government does not govern without them. One of the hardest things in Brazilian presidential campaign is to make alliances in the states, and it was difficult for both candidates to do it. Many times it meant that the national party had to intervene in the regional party to make them give up their candidacies in the state. In the name of the “coalition”, PT only has 10 candidates to be governor while PSDB, Serra’s party, has 16.

The election will be decided in Sudeste (the region has 4 states), where around 43% of the population live. Serra, as an ex-governor of Sao Paulo will get a very decent showing there. In Rio de Janeiro, things are a little more complicated because neither PT nor PSDB has their own candidate, but Lula had 69% of the vote in the second round in 2006. Again, in Espirito Santo, Lula got the better in 2006, and now “his” candidate to be governor has a good chance of winning in the first round. The biggest problem of all is Minas Gerais, where most analysts believe that this election will be decided.

The ex-governor Aécio Neves, from the same party as Serra, has one of the best approvals of all governors in Brazil, but still Serra can’t count on this State, nor can Dilma. In 2006, there was a phenomenon called “lulécio”, a vote for Aécio for governor and Lula for president, even though they are from different parties. The same can happen this year, but PT, the president’s party, will not have a candidate, all in the name of a coalition with PMDB. Many “mineiros”(those from Minas Gerais) are angry that Aécio was not the presidential candidate of PSDB, especially because it’s the second time that Serra is trying. Pretty much the same thing happened in 2006, and Aécio didn’t move a finger to help his party candidate.

In Brazil, the time that each coalition has on television is considered valuable, and is calculated by the number of MPs that a party elected in the previous election. Dilma has 47% more time than Serra. According to one of the most important public relations analysts, the importance of the time in television can be understood by the fact that in no less than 20 of the 26 capitals, those who were fighting to be mayor and had more time on television won.

Serra has 6 parties in his “coalition”, and had a giant problem until very recently: the vice president. After upsetting everyone and not pleasing anyone, a relatively unknown from the Democratas was “chosen”, after this party threatened to break-up the alliance if one of their own wasn’t chosen. The worse of all is that it was put on twitter by an ally of Serra that he was choosing someone from his own party. But Serra had to backtrack, after the brother of Alvaro Dias decided to do a coalition with PT and because Democratas said they wouldn’t accept it.

Both candidates are pretending to be something that they are not, meaning that they can make mistakes. The two of them showed they can be very rude, especially with journalists. The debates will play an important role in this election, like always, and a silly mistake can mean a spell in opposition. According to the polls, both candidates have pretty much the same level of support but this is Dilma’s election to lose, better yet, it’s Lula’s.

Me is a regular contributor to the site and hails from São Paulo

(Double Carpet writes: Me, many thanks for an excellent piece. If anyone wishes to read further on Brazil, there’s a gigantic guide to this autumn’s election at the excellent World Elections site.)

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