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Brazilian Presidential Bid Intensifies

By Jewellord Singh, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The three main parties competing for the presidential elections have now announced their potential Vice Presidents to help drum up further support for their bids. Marina Silva, front runner of Partido Verde (PV/The Green Party) officially declared businessman Guilherme Leal as their candidate on May 16. José Serra’s Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) named his co-PSDB member Aécio Neves, whilst Dilma Rousseff’s Partido do Trabalhadores (PT/Labour Party) also announced PMDB and current President of Lower House Michael Temer as her running mate.

President Lula da Silva and PT Standard bearer Dilma Rousseff, photo by Agencia Brasil.

The parties have been in a race to acquire support from various political quarters, business associations and organized civil groups. In a country whose multiparty coalition politics requires pragmatic alliances to win, the contenders sought support from smaller political parties, including ‘catchalls’ like PMDB and PTB as well as the ‘moderate left’ PDT. Unions, evangelical groups and other socio-civic groups are now being courted by the parties in this election.

With the election drawing nearer, presidential candidates have already laid down their political platforms. The PV, a breakaway party from ruling PT, runs a pro-environment campaign that seems increasingly relevant in a resource-based economy with renewable and non-renewables as its basis of growth. The party’s raison d’etre, based on a critique against Lula’s lack of an environmental agenda, is now their main battle cry in the presidential elections. On the other hand, PSDB is the party that put Fernando Henrique Cardoso into a two-term presidency and remains known for its technocratic and reformist agenda, delineating itself from others through its programmatic party politics and close ties with the Right and Center.

Meanwhile, PT standard bearer Rousseff promises continuity in Lula’s economic and social policies. In its fourth attempt to win power in 2003 the Lula government exemplified strong preference over continuity of market reforms initiated by Cardoso. These included emphasis on low inflation, high interest rates, and fiscal prudence. To pacify worries from the international financial community, Lula honoured debts to the IMF and has since championed a policy of greater market access for Brazil.

PV Candidate Marina Silva in discussion at a round table in IDS, Photo by Instituto Democracia e Sustentibilidade.

In social policy, Lula is credited for the pension reform in his first term, and targeted poverty alleviation schemes such as Bolsa Familia and Fundef. In particular, Bolsa Familia is a stipend aimed at helping the poor families put their children through school, a policy promoted by the World Bank to address the deficiencies of structural adjustment programs.

With an average growth rate of 5-6 percent per year since 2003 and the Brazilian economy still resilient after the global financial crisis, the challenge of making sure the poor gain more from economic progress seems to be the central issue in the presidential elections. And despite the corruption scandals that rocked Lula’s administration in 2005, he remains a popular political figure and his unconditional support to Rousseff is likely to expand her electoral base in PT’s bid for a third term.

Brazilian democratic politics have undoubtedly witnessed a move towards moderation and centrist tendencies, with PT changing its uncompromising leftist program against Cardoso and PSDB in the early 1990s towards a more social democratic platform since 2003. The PSDB likewise moved towards less rightist policies in response to widening poverty and inequality amidst sustained economic growth. With party ideology becoming less relevant in the campaign, electoral machinery and image will play a greater role in winning the presidency.

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