Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva Regains Lead in Polls, Jose Serra Will Not Run against Him

Article excerpt

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva appears to have overcome a drop in poll numbers that had threatened his hopes for re-election later this year. Ethics scandals in his Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) had made Lula appear vulnerable in his effort to win a second term, but infighting among his top opponents and the popular perception that Lula was not directly involved in corrupt PT activity has restored his strong public support. Meanwhile, the Partido da Social Democracia Brasiliera (PSDB) has chosen Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin as its presidential candidate over the more popular mayor of the city of Sao Paulo, Jose Serra.

Lula seems to have recovered the incumbent's advantage and the popularity he lost during official inquiries into ethics breaches by members of his party (see NotiSur, 2004-03-05, 2005-06-24, 2005-09-09, and 2005-12-09). After the allegations of wrongdoing against several top members of the PT piled up and investigations dragged on through the middle of 2005, polls had shown Serra potentially beating Lula in a presidential vote.

A poll published Aug. 12, 2005, by the daily Folha de Sao Paulo showed the president would lose a re-election bid to Serra--his main opponent in 2002--by a margin of 39% to 48%. Since then, Serra has lost his edge in the polls.

A March 15 poll by the Instituto Brasileiero de Opiniao Publica e Estatistica (IBOPE) showed Lula winning 43% if the vote were held that day. Alckmin, his candidacy not yet announced when the poll was taken, received only 19% support. The IBOPE poll was conducted March 8-11 with 2002 people in 143 of the country's 5,500 municipalities. It had a 2.2% margin of error.

The poll showed Lula also beating Serra with the incumbent president receiving 40% of the vote versus 31% for Serra, and a runoff resulting in Lula's victory with 44%, and Serra with 40%. The firm expected that some of Serra's votes might migrate to Alckmin, "but in all scenarios, Lula has, at this moment, a great advantage in relation to the names presented" as options, said Amauri Teixeira, consultant from the Confederacao Nacional da Industrias (CNI), which traditionally is in charge of IBOPE surveys. Nonetheless, Teixeira was careful to point out that the voters' tendencies could change between now and the Oct. 1 elections.

Although Lula has yet to officially announce whether he will seek re-election, there is little evidence that he will not run.

Finance Minister Palocci under scrutiny

One potential factor that could hinder Lula's campaign is the corruption allegations that still persist. There are ongoing investigations of Congress members and other officials through legislative investigation commissions (Commissao Parlamentar de Inquerito, CPI) set up after revelations of wrongdoing, but the worst of the political storm seems to have passed over Lula. Nevertheless, Finance Minister Antonio Palocci is currently facing corruption inquiries in the Congress, including claims that he accepted illegal payments from gambling and trash-collection interests during his 1993-1994 mayoral administration in the city of Riberao Prieto and that he arranged illegal campaign funding to the PT. …