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Brazil Elections: Lula Close To Winning Presidency
THE WORKERS Party (PT) candidate, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, got the highest vote in the first round of Brazil's presidential election. ANDRÉ FERRARI of Socialismo Revolucionario (SR - CWI, Brazil) reports on this pivotal election.
MORE THAN 100 million people queued for up to seven hours in temperatures reaching 40 degrees in some areas. Most voters were showing their opposition to the current government and wanted change.
With 99% of votes counted, Lula had 46.4% of valid votes against 23.2% for pro-government candidate José Serra (PSDB - the governing capitalist party). The other main 'radical' capitalist candidates, Garotinho (PSB) and Gomes (PPS) got 17.9% and 12% respectively.
Despite his upward trend over recent weeks, Lula did not make the 50% needed for a first-round decision.
But the result is a major progress for the PT in relation to previous elections and it places Lula as favourite for the run-off on 27 October.
In the state and parliamentary elections PT candidates made huge gains at the expense of the ruling PSDB.
Lula's new image
THE PT majority leadership believes the result has shown that Lula was right to adopt his new "peace and love" image. However, the high vote for Lula is not because he is now ready to sit down for talks with everybody, or dilute the PT programme to reach electoral agreements with former enemies, or mollify international bankers.
People voted for Lula expecting profound changes. The party's roots are among the most politically conscious workers and they felt confused as to what was happening. This helped undermine the chances of a first round victory.
On the one hand Lula portrayed himself as "business friendly" - an indication of pro-capitalist intentions - while on the other hand, the PT leadership had to try and retain its working-class support.
In an effort to stir up the PT rank and file, at Lula's last rally in S‹o Paulo, the PT chairman José Dirceu even said, hypocritically, that the "long awaited social revolution was finally coming". At the same rally, Lula said that the rank and file had no need to worry, and that he would carry out the PT programme when elected.
This confusion among the 'advanced' workers is just what Serra needs to upset the PT's electoral plans and the prospects of genuine change expected from a Lula government.
Lula did not do well in the last TV debate. He made mistakes and came over as not having any position on anything so as not to cause differences with anybody. He even apologised to Serra for perhaps having criticised him and gave no firm or clearly posed answers.
Everything will be discussed and negotiated between workers, companies and government. The social pact is the answer for everything.
This approach could be disastrous in the run-off. Serra does have a position on the coming crisis. He wants to pay blood money to the international speculators, pay Brazil's debt with the hunger of the people and hand over the country to the interests of imperialism through the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Lula should clearly pose the need for a socialist alternative that does not make the majority of people shoulder the crisis but breaks with capitalism.
Building a socialist opposition
A LULA victory would be a milestone in Brazilian history. A former-worker becoming president in this country that is world champion of social inequality! This could radicalise millions of workers and also stimulate a re-composition and re-organisation of the Brazilian left.
But although it has grown, the PT is still a minority in congress, even in alliance with the centre-left parties. If Lula wins and becomes president there will be enormous pressure to broaden political agreements with the capitalist parties including the PSDB itself.
The socialist left outside the PT did not do as well as it had expected. Two parties described as 'Trotskyist' were running for president. Zé Maria of the PSTU got some 400,000 votes (0.5%). This is double his 1998 vote but much less than expected.
In the final stretch of the campaign, Zé Maria lost the votes of people who are critical of Lula's current moderate polices but wanted a Lula victory in the first round. The PCO got an insignificant 0.05%.
In the first round the PT Left got good results and several deputies were elected at national level and in the states. Some were clearly elected on a Left position.
The positions won should be used to build a solid socialist alternative to the policy of the PT majority leadership. Building this alternative is what will determine the future of Brazil in the next period.
IN THESE elections, Socialismo Revolutionario, the Brazilian section of CWI, which is organised as a Marxist tendency of the PT, called for a critical vote for Lula and defended a socialist programme and strategy as alternatives to the position of the PT leadership.
As part of this policy, Miguel Leme ran for state deputy in São Paulo. He is a member of the leadership of Apeoesp, the state teachers union.
Miguel's campaign was not separate from struggle. In the last week before the elections, SR members were leading an important strike of municipal teachers in Cotia, near São Paulo.
Despite all the pressure to moderate the programme and win elections at any price, Miguel got 1,150 votes defending a socialist PT without the bosses.
A fuller version of André's report is available on www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 11 October 2002: