Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva Officially Announces Campaign for Re-Election
Incumbent Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made his campaign for re-election official on June 24. Vice President Jose Alencar will accompany him on the ballot as he seeks a second four-year term under the banner of his Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT). The presidential election will take place Oct. 1 and, if current poll numbers hold, sweep Lula back into office by a broad margin, possibly avoiding the necessity for a second round of voting.
Lula's fifth consecutive campaign
Lula said at the June 24 event, "I decided to submit my name and my government, with humility, to the judgment of my Brazilian brothers and sisters." This will be his fifth consecutive campaign for the presidency.
The official announcement that he will be running for a second term means that he will be legally barred from participating in visits to public works or in their inaugurations.
The country's first elected leftist president, Lula came to power four years ago on a platform of improving life for Brazil's tens of millions of poor, many of whom get by on less than US$1 a day (see NotiSur, 2002-10-11 and 2002-11-01).
Lula, 60, is clearly favored to win the October elections, despite criticism that he has failed to deliver on promises that include redistributing land (see NotiSur, 2005-06-03 and 2006-05-19). He vowed to continue his efforts. "I know there's still a lot to be done to reduce poverty," Silva said in the speech to supporters. "But we are on the right track."
Lula pledged to push harder to eradicate poverty in Brazil if re-elected. He insists that the life of Brazil's poor has improved since he took office in January 2003, though he also acknowledged limitations. "We haven't done everything we wanted to do, but we've done a lot more than some people thought was possible," he said. "I'm becoming a candidate again because the poor are less poor, and they're going to continue to have a better life if the social programs we put in place are maintained and expanded."
Among those programs is Bolsa Familia, which gives poor families monthly stipends to keep children in school and in extracurricular activities, instead of sending them to work.
A grade-school dropout, the working-class Silva is a radical change from Brazil's traditional upper-class leaders--and from the 1964-1985 military dictatorship that jailed him for leading labor strikes. "All of you know how much it cost us to get here, how many obstacles we needed to remove, and how many traps we found ourselves obligated to dismantle," said Lula at his June 24 announcement. "In the last three and a half years we have shown the world that a worker can direct the destiny of Brazil."
A number of former allies have distanced themselves from Lula, particularly the more militant elements within leftist organizations like the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) and political allies alienated by ongoing corruption scandals in the top echelons of the PT and Lula's administration (see NotiSur, 2005-06-24, 2005-09-09, 2005-12-09 and 2006-04-07).
Opposition stresses corruption, slow economic growth
Partido da Social Democracia Brasiliera (PSDB) leaders chose Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin over Sao Paulo city mayor Jose Serra earlier this year (see NotiSur, 2006-03-24) to be their candidate to run against Lula. Alckmin will be the primary competition for the incumbent president, although poll numbers show him trailing by a very wide margin. Serra was popular with many potential voters but has been a two-time loser in prior presidential elections, the last race being Lula's 2002 victory.
Polls suggest Silva is within striking distance of the 50% of the vote needed for a first-round victory in the Oct. 1 election. If no candidate gets half the vote, the top two go to an Oct. 29 runoff.
Alckmin campaign ads and rhetoric have focused on corruption scandals in the PT, which plagued Lula through most of 2005. …