In close vote, Lula goes to runoff


SÃO PAOLO, Brazil — President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the 60-year-old former factory worker and labor union leader, on Oct. 1 narrowly fell short of the majority vote needed to avoid a runoff election here. The political coalition of the Worker’s Party and the Communist Party of Brazil that backed “Lula” had 48.6 percent of the vote, just shy of the 50-percent-plus-one needed for an outright win. With 98 percent of the votes tabulated, candidate Geraldo Alckmin’s 41.6 percent put him in the runoff slated for Oct. 29.

Alckmin, a doctor and former governor of São Paulo state, ran on a coalition ticket of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Front Party, representing the right-wing on Brazil’s political spectrum.

The other presidential candidates together had almost 10 percent of the vote.

This has been a very hard election battle by all accounts. The media system worked day and night for candidate Alckmin, favored by big business and right-wing interests. The latter used television and radio propaganda to attack Lula. Little space and time were devoted to discussing program, questions and problems. The right-wing platform included personal attacks on Lula and his family.

Alckmin also has close connections to Opus Dei, an ultra-conservative Catholic organization, made infamous in Dan Brown’s “DaVinci Code.”

Elected in 2002, Lula’s administration put in practice a platform of economic and social justice, against the privatization and neoliberal economic policy of the former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

The conservative sectors of Brazil do not tolerate democracy, and have worked hard to attack Lula, even threatening the government with coup-like tactics. If they don’t prevail in the second round, they have threatened to impeach Lula in the Congress.

Alleged corruption scandals involving some Worker’s Party leaders have also been used to put Lula in a defensive position.

Just two weeks before the election, two men, allegedly closely linked to the Worker’s Party, were arrested here. They were found to be in possession of almost $800,000 in cash — both American dollars and Brazilian reals. The police alleged the sum was to have paid for a dossier containing corruption allegations against rival politicians.

Lula replaced his re-election campaign chief, Ricardo Berzoini, just 11 days before the election. Berzoini is under investigation by the electoral courts. Newspapers published, just one day before the vote, photographs of neatly wrapped dollars and reals, fomenting an anti-Lula atmosphere.

Lula’s vote was strong in the poorer, northeastern states. Alckmin received many votes in the southern states, which have a larger middle class population. In the second round of voting, Lula will try to broaden his alliance with the center parties like the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.

Communists had victories at the Oct. 1 polls. Thirteen Communists were elected deputies and, for the first time since 1946, a Communist was elected senator, from the northeastern state of Ceara. (Brazil’s national legislature is composed of a 513-member Chamber of Deputies and an 81-member Senate.) With another senator having joined the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) since his election on different ticket in 2002, Brazil will now have two Communist senators.

Now the PCdoB will fight to re-elect Lula in the second round of voting in a great alliance of progressive and democratic parties.

Pedro Oliveira is the communications secretary of the Communist Party of Brazil.