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Lula set to return favours and reshuffle cabinet.

Tuesday, January 13th 2004 - 20:00 UTC
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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's plan to build a Congressional majority and electoral alliance for the coming municipal polls with one of the parties he once bitterly battled received crucial support this Monday.

"This alliance is very important for the government and for inter-party relations," Workers Party PT chairman Jose Genoino stated on the party's Internet Web page.

Mr. Genoino's support comes as Lula prepares to reshuffle his Cabinet for the first time since taking office a year ago to make room for members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, PMDB that played a fundamental role in the approval of the controversial social security and fiscal reforms.

PMDB, one of the country's largest parties that stems from its creation under the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985), enjoys a plurality in the Senate and is the second most important bloc in Deputies. PMDB that played the opposition under military rule has participated in every administration since the country's return to democracy in 1985 until Lula's election in 2002.

Mr. Genoino added that PT's alliance with the PMDB will not be limited to the cabinet and Congress but will also include fielding joint slate of candidates in the coming October municipal elections.

Although Lula da Silva won an unprecedented number of votes in the first round of the 2002 presidential election and the Workers party managed a plurality in Deputies, there are only 183 PT mayors out of a total 5,561 Brazilian municipalities. Mr. Lula da Silva in 2002 also lost in the majority of sate governorships.

Mr. Genoino argues that as the ruling party and to extend its presence at municipal level, the PT needs candidates in all towns even when this means alliances with other parties, a common practice in Brazilian politics where party allegiances are volatile.

PT's chairman adds that PMDB support will be crucial in Congress for the approval of much needed legislation including a bankruptcy bill and private financing for infrastructure projects.

"In order to achieve this it is essential to ensure a working congressional majority and the time for including the PMDB is ripe" stresses Mr. Genoino.

PMDB support was vital in approving the fiscal and social security presented to Congress March 2003. However PMDB leaders have made it clear that future support will depend on cabinet level participation.

Nevertheless President Lula da Silva and Mr. Genoino still have much convincing ahead since many PT members clearly recall that PMDB until just a few months ago was described as a "reactionary" force and the worst example of patronage and graft in Brazilian politics.

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