Split in Brazil's governing party favors Workers Party candidate

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Sep 28 06:39:48 MDT 2002


New York Times Saturday September 29

A Crucial Party Defection Bolsters a Brazilian Candidate
By TONY SMITH


ÃO PAULO, Brazil, Sept. 27 - Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the favorite in the
race to win the election next month to choose Brazil's next president, saw
his chances further strengthened today when a faction of a crucial political
party in Rio de Janeiro State threw its weight behind him, abandoning the
government's candidate.
The defection by the Brazilian Democratic Party in Rio State, home to the
third-largest electorate in this country of 174 million, prompted Mr. Silva
to predict an unprecedented victory at the national level for his Workers'
Party. Mr. Silva has contested and lost three elections in 1989, 1994 and
1998 but is way out front in opinion polls for the ballot on Oct. 6.
"If I already believed in my victory, I am now almost certain that I will
win," Mr. Silva told a news conference called to announce the Rio party's
switch.
The P.M.D.B., Brazil's largest party, has been a member of the ruling
coalition of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso for the past eight years.
Factions of the party in other important states, like São Paulo and Minas
Gerais, have already split from Mr. Cardoso's hand-picked candidate, José
Serra, and gone over to Mr. Silva. Yet, some analysts said the defections
would not necessarily produce a landslide of votes for Mr. Silva.
"This is more important symbolically than in practical terms," said
Christopher Garman, an analyst at the São Paulo-based consultants
Tendências. "It's not an indicator that the P.M.D.B. as a whole is jumping
ship."
Mr. Silva's 25-percentage-point lead over Mr. Serra in the latest polls has
panicked financial markets. Analysts worry that the Workers' Party's public
shift to the political center may be little more than cosmetic, and they
fear that Mr. Silva, a former metalworker with no experience in government,
will have a tough time putting Brazil back on the path to growth and, at the
same time, managing its unwieldy $260 billion public debt.
The Brazilian currency, the real, opened Friday at a record low of 3.845 to
the dollar, off from 3.780 at Thursday's close.
The Brazilian Democratic Party, already heterogeneous and regionalized, has
split between pro- and antigovernment factions. Former presidents Itamar
Franco and José Sarney - both from the party's antigovernment wing - are
backing Mr. Silva, while the party leader, Michel Temer, stands firmly
behind Mr. Serra.


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