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Lula set to win but scandals could condition second term

Sunday, September 24th 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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With only seven days left for Brazil's October first general election, a public opinion poll published this weekend shows President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his re-election bid has not been dented by the recent string of scandals, although it could affect his second term political leadership.

According to Datafolha President Lula lost one point but still has a 49% support which means that subtracting void, annulled and abstentions he would comfortably win with 55% of valid votes.

The opposition's main candidate Geraldo Alckmin from the Brazilian Social Democrat Party continued to benefit from the exposure of political scandals, which forced Lula da Silva to sack the chairman of his Workers Party and head of the re-election bid. Mr. Alckmin current support increased from 29 to 31%, equivalent to 34% of valid votes but insufficient to force a second round.

The latest polls have come as a relief for the Lula da Silva administration that feared the latest scandal in the heart of Government House (Planalto Palace) a week ago could have cost Lula da Silva the necessary points to win re-election in the first round.

The "gate-dossier" as was identified the operation discovered last week by the Brazilian Federal police, (recalling the Watergate exposure) was masterminded by the businessmen involved in a giant scam to sell hugely over-billed ambulances to the Health Ministry, who were offering documents and information allegedly incriminating the opposition in the state of Sao Paulo.

Social Democrat candidate Jose Serra is forecasted to become Sao Paulo's next governor Sunday without the need of a run off. Sao Paulo is Brazil's most powerful and influential state (over 60% of the country's GDP) and control of this powerhouse is essential for any political project. Serra was Public Health Minister when the ambulances scam was first started under the administration of former president Fernando Enrique Cardoso.

Apparently members of Lula da Silva's re-election campaign and leaders of the Workers Party were ready to pay 800.000 US dollars for the dossier which was to be leaked to Brazil's main magazines. But the Federal Police caught them red-handed forcing the resignation of top officials, Ricardo Berzoni, co-ordinator of the campaign and the ruling party's chairman; close aides of Mr. Lula da Silva who workdd for him at the Planalto Palace and top managers in the Bank of Brazil.

The Datafolha opinion poll showed a paradoxical situation since in spite of strong support for Mr. Lula da Silva's, 75% of interviews said that corruption was rampant in government and 83% that the president has some responsibility on all the cases exposed.

The third candidate Heloisa Helena, a radical dissident from Lula's Workers Party now running for the Socialism and Liberty Party has 9% of vote intention.

In the campaign trail Lula da Silva insisted that "numbers and data show we've been much better than them (opposition) and now they are trying to see if through other means, non democratic or non electoral, they can prevent us from keep running this country". On Saturday candidate Alckim accused Lula's campaign of using false video footage of him addressing the United Nations. In a televised ad Lula is shown addressing the UN General Assembly last Tuesday followed by a shot of the audience with standing ovation for the Brazilian President. However the ovation actually was previous, and addressed to outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, claimed Alckim.

This is the fifth time Lula da Silva is running for president: he lost to Fernando Collor de Mello in 1990; to Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1994 and 1998. If re-elected next Sunday he will be in office until 2010.

In Sao Paulo the country's business capital Lula da Silva's re-election is taken as a fact but there are growing concerns about the string of corruption scandals involving his administration unveiled in the last two years.

The question is not whether Lula will win, but rather how the scandals will influence governance and his political leadership in his second term.

Categories: Mercosur.

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