Thursday, May 29th 2003 - 21:00 UTC

Lula turns right for help.

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva finally managed a Congressional majority after a center right party decided to join the ruling coalition and so ensure the approval in Congress of crucial reforms in social security and the taxing system.

The Executive Committee of the Partido Movimiento Democrático Brasileño, PMDB, that has been in power since Brazil recovered democracy in 1985, voted by a majority to give "congressional support" to the Workers Party government. This means that with its 68 Deputies and 22 Senators the ruling left wing coalition now will have 326 Deputies (18 more than needed to approve constitutional reforms) and 53 Senators equivalent to almost two thirds of the 81 Higher House members.

PMDB president Senator Michel Temer said the party "opted to support Mr. Lula's government in the approval of reforms to the social security and tax reforms that are so important for the country".

However Mr. Temer pointed out that "there's a difference between supporting a government and belonging to it". But Senator PMDB also admitted that in any future cabinet reshuffle it would be normal that "one or two ministries will be offered to PMDB, as well as in other government organizations such as the Central Bank, Brazilian Petroleum and Federal Savings".

President Lula da Silva currently has the support of his Workers Party, Democratic Workers Party, Liberals, Brazilian Workers and the Communist Party.

The reforms of the Brazilian social security system and taxing legislation, (unsuccessfully attempted in previous administrations) are considered crucial for the future development of the country, particularly ensuring a balanced budget and fairer distribution of wealth.

These reforms have been sourly criticized by members of Mr. Lula da Silva's own party who even floated videos showing him blasting the reforms when he headed the opposition.

In an interview with foreign correspondents president Lula da Silva stressed that "I haven't changed ideologically, life has changed" and illustrated with a man getting married.

"When married, everything depends on the wife. If the wife doesn't like her husband's friends, you end up not seeing them", said Mr. Lula da Silva.

The Brazilian ruling party is deeply divided on the basic interest rate issue that this week was confirmed at 26,5% (with inflation barely 10%). Industry, farmers, consumers and Congress members are lobbying strongly for a reduction, while Mr. Lula and his top financial aides insist that until inflation is defeated there's no other option, even if it means a slowing down of economic activity.

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