Tuesday, November 02, 2004

One blonde loses, another blonde wins; long live the blonde!
With Marta Suplicy (PT) no longer the darling of the PT, it looks like the party will need to look elsewhere. And given the amount of time, money and effort they threw into the Sao Paulo election, how sickened must they be that the name the media wants to talk about is that of Luzianne Lins, the newly elected PT mayor of Fortaleza in Ceara state?

Luzianne was elected without much support from the national PT and the only similarity between here and Marta is the colour of her hair. In an interview with Folha, she claims that the Sao Paulo defeat is ‘irreparable’ and that along with petista victories in Recife and Aracaju, the party’s pole is shifting from the south to the northeast.

Whether Luzianne’s words become fact – and indeed and if the PT will now engage in a period of soul-searching – is beyond the scope of this blog. Regrettably we have reached the natural end of this blog, devised as it was to only cover the election campaign. But worry not, there’s still more post-match analysis to take place before Andrew and I take our leave.

For example, for perhaps the last time, we go to Estadao guru, Fatima Pacheco Jordao. President Lula was one of the biggest losers on Sunday. After having publicly backed Marta way before the election campaign proper began, ‘Because of this, Lula can’t leave Marta isolated in the public sphere.’ And coupled with the defeat of Porto Alegre the analyst predicts there will be big internal changes in the government.

But there shouldn’t be any adverse impact on Lula’s personal position though. Marcia Cavallari, of the polling company, Ibope, says that ‘We need to see who will be [Lula’s] adversaries [in 2006] and in what alliances they will be composed, but Lula will still be a strong candidate.’

For an official statement (Luzianne doesn’t count, given her status with members of her own party) we turn to the PT’s national party president, Jose Genoino. In his election post-mortem we discover that the reason the PT lost Sao Paulo was down to it being inefficient in responding to the opposition. And with regard to Porto Alegre, this master of under-statement went on to say that ‘The people opted for a new experience. The PT has to consider this as natural.’

Meanwhile there is less sangfroid from the former Porto Alegre mayor and current education minister, Tarso Genro, said that he saw the end to the ‘PT’s historic period’. According to him ‘Alliances reached their limit, as seen in the relationship with malufismo in Sao Paulo… Apart from this, a section of the PT in Rio Grande do Sul, which is most closely linked to the party’s origins, suffered defeat. This means that from this moment the PT should start building a new project.’

The problem for Genro is that the system of alliances which provide support for the federal government in Congress don’t exist in the state legislatures or cities. In the case of Porto Alegre, the opposition was comprised of parties which both supported and opposed the Lula government.

Another, more local explanation for the PT defeat in Porto Alegre can be found in the party’s failure to provide adequate health facilities. The party recognised this and defeated mayor Raul Pont planned to put a close ally in the post had he won. His opponent, Jose Fogaca (PPS), exploited the PT over the issue, highlighting that only four 24-hour posts were created in the city over the last 16 years.

Petistas based here in London appear to be in a state of shock, unable to believe the two cities have gone. So you can imagine that they would rather hope the foreign media hadn’t picked up on it. But too late! The Estadao notes that Le Monde, the Financial Times both pick up on the story. And despite the minor matter of a presidential election in the United States, PSDB opposition which will enable them to challenge the PT government in Brasilia. Not sure about the use of the term they’ve chosen though… It conjures up images of defiant last stands by certain dictators. And I’m sure that’s not the image the opposition wants to plant in the public’s mind.

And whereas the PSDB victory may well fortify the party ahead of the 2006 elections, the wider results should also have an effect on their main ally, the PFL. There’s an internal fight going on between the old guard led by aging senator and king-maker, Antonio Carlos Magalhaes, and the younger, rising stars. After ACM’s (as he’s known) hand picked favourite, Cesar Borges, humiliatingly failed to take the PFL leader’s home city of Salvador at the weekend, could he be on the way out?

Out with the old, in with the new
Back in Sao Paulo the PSDB councillors are now considering what Serra’s victory means in terms of budgeting for next year. Already they have identified several differences between Serra’s program and Marta’s budget which was sent to the finance committee before the second round. In particular is the issue of educational centres which Marta promised to build more. Expect those to be chucked out, along with other petista pet projects.

Kiss and make up
And finally old foes seem to be acknowledging the existence of each other. After all the vitriol heaped on Serra over recent weeks, failed candidate Paulo Maluf (PP) took time out from briefing his lawyers over alleged foreign currency movements and financial evasions to send his congratulations to the new mayor. While it’s a decent thing to do, I’m surprised he has the time.

Final word
There is no doubt plenty more which we could present on the election and its aftermath, not least the dynamics this will have on the parties and their relations with each other, both locally and nationally. But as we’ve said since the beginning, this blog was only set up for the purpose of covering the Sao Paulo election (and the broader political scene where appropriate). During this time (just under three months but it feels like more) I hope we’ve offered an English-language insight into a field which doesn’t get much illumination.

No doubt Andrew and I may well return, in a different guise and using a different format. Personally, I will be glad to no longer be juggling two blogs and return to my own personal one, where I hope to be able to post infrequent comments on the Brazilian political scene, as well as on the Brazzil website.

If (for whatever reason), someone ever wants to understand the Sao Paulo election of 2004 this blog will be left as is, to serve as an archive for future readers and students of Brazilian politics. Maybe it’s a little presumptuous to think anyone will ever make use of it, but we can dream – and live in hope that someone will find something of interest in the more than 60,000 words that Andrew and I have penned on the subject since August.

So thanks for reading and goodnight.

Interested in Brazilian local elections, huh?
Then you could do no worse than peruse this handy analysis of the second round written for the Citymayors.com site, by their Political Editor Andrew Stevens (who he? - ed).

Monday, November 01, 2004

Have modem, will mop-up
With 100% of votes counted, the Folha reveals that Serra's winning share of the vote was 54.86% to Marta's 45.14%.

The electorate has had its say, now the analysts and pundits have theirs:

"I don't think that the PT has suffered a general defeat but the winner of the election is the PSDB," said Roberto Romano, a political scientist at the University of Campinas.

"For 2006, the PT must make adjustments in the area where it is considered strong -- social policy," he said."

Over at our friends Bloomberg:

"Suplicy's pledge to govern for the poorest residents in Sao Paulo cost her votes, said Carlos Lopes, a political analyst with Brasilia-based Santafe Ideias. She funded the repaving of almost 160 kilometers (65 miles) of roads, and the construction of 190 schools by making property owners pay a levy for litter collection and raising property taxes for wealthier citizens."

And with that, I hand over for the last time to Guy. Thanks for visiting.

The wooden man takes it
With 99% of the vote counted, it is official: Jose Serra (PSDB) takes the mayoralty of Sao Paulo. With 55% of the vote (3.3 million) against Marta Suplicy’s (PT) 45% (2.71 million), he’s the first member of his party to win a mayoral election in the city.

Serra’s first words were to say that ‘Democracy was strengthened by this vote, despite it being on a public holiday. Sao Paulo’s people preferred not to swap four days of holiday for four years of its future, for four years in City Hall.’

Marta’s response was to say that ‘We did our part for democracy. I want to complement my rival and hope that he will make the best possible government for the city of Sao Paulo.’

Elsewhere the PT lost the southern city of Porto Alegre. The party president, Jose Genoino, admitted that there were ‘two heavy defeats’ and took a philosophical approach, by saying that ‘People learn from defeat and learn from victory.’ President Lula’s chief-of-staff, Jose Dirceu, believed this wouldn’t end in any lasting damage for the PT: ‘Many of us have lost elections and after we were elected to key positions in the country.’

And with the champagne still on ice, attention shifts towards the presidential elections in two years’ time. Noting that Sao Paulo state has now been governed by the PSDB for ten years, the result in Sao Paulo city must also be attributed to the support governor Geraldo Alckmin gave to Serra. Senator Romeu Tuma of the PFL (allies of the PSDB in Congress), said that ‘The PFL and the PSDB will form a joint party line which will open the road to Geraldo Alckmin. Who doesn’t want Geraldo Alckmin as president?’

Before we leave the Sao Paulo poll, it's worth reflecting that the candidate with the least charisma won. What implications does this have for the wider world? With other signs apparent, including the Washington Redskins' defeat at the weekend, the Boston Red Sox victory in last week's World Series, Portsmouth's defeat of Manchester United and a possible left-wing president emerging in Uruguay, what chances another wooden man will come through in the United States tomorrow night?

Before you cancel your tickets...
Andrew has mentioned Porto Alegre so it would be worth dwelling on some of the aftershocks of this result. Just as the international left begins to take notice of the city (and believe me as someone who was born in the place, the city is hardly anything to write home about), highlighting its participatory budget process and home of the World Social Forum, what do the people go and do? Vote out the people who brought it all in. I can well imagine Red Pepper readers (and perhaps editors) gnashing their teeth at the absurdity of such an ungrateful electorate. Still, not to worry: soon after his victory, the newly elected mayor, Jose Fogaca (PPS), promised that he would continue much of the work begun by the PT there as well as form new ones: ‘I want to reaffirm my promise that we are going to work for all…’

New administration, same problems...
While discussion about who will stand for the PSDB as president in 2006 continues, Serra has had an unwelcome introduction to his new role. Soon after midnight more than 3,000 homeless people invaded government buildings in the city, protesting about the lack of housing. The movement is an urban variant on the landless peasant movement (MST), which has realised that the only way to get government to act is to occupy.

Welcome to City Hall, Serra!

Elsewhere...
Further afield, I can give a short analysis of the results from the more than 40 contests which took place yesterday. The winners were the PT and the PSDB, with the petistas winning 11 and the tucanos nine. Both also topped the list of losing candidates, with the PT on 12 and the PSDB on 10. In those where the two parties went head-to-head against each other, the PT won out, by six to four.

Of course absolute figures will not compensate for the defeat of Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre (where the PT’s Raul Pont lost by 53% to 47%).

Furthermore, as the Estadao points out, the PSDB won five state capitals against the PT in three (including – remarkably – Vitoria in Espirito Santo where the PSDB had reigned supreme since 1992).

According to political scientist Lucia Hipolito, ‘The result shows a balance of PT and PSDB forces. The electorate distributed their votes [in such a way] not to create a unified hegemonic force.’

So now you know.

What's it all mean?
I’m sure Andrew and I will come back to analyse the Sao Paulo and other results in more detail later on. But one of the joys of writing your own blog is that you can comment as much as you like. One other issue though which I think we should raise – and which I’m sure either we or someone else will come back to later – is the question of where it leaves the PT. Whereas there seems general agreement of a polarisation between two political blocs, led by the PT and the PSDB, what of the internal dynamics of the former?

Before Andrew and I started this blog I was running pieces on the state of the election campaign on my personal blog. I highlighted a paper written by prominent petista Emir Sader, which assessed the party’s prospects, drawing on Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre. He argued that if Sao Paulo was won it would strengthen the party’s moderate wing and Lula. But if Sao Paulo was lost that would mean a corresponding rise in the fortunes of the PT left.

It’s worth noting that Sader saw Sao Paulo as the variable and a Porto Alegre victory as given. But what happens now that both wings of the party have suffered such a shocking defeat?

Sunday, October 31, 2004

In politics, expect the expected
In a perfect world, we would have done the running commentary thing as events unfolded (which is quite popular in blogland right now) on here. As it is you'll have to make do with the tres minimalist approach.

Bloomberg report a Serra victory (based on exit-polls at this stage unfortunately) of a margin of 55% to 45%. It also predicts likely defeats for the PT in Porto Alegre and Curitiba.

The Brazilian media are showing definite defeats for the PT in Porto Alegre and a runaway lead for Serra with 90% of votes counted in Sao Paulo itself. I'll pencil in an update when the final result is in, then it's down to Guy (Portuguese) and myself (English) for the post-election mop-up.

Update (23.15): Bloomberg call it for Serra after only 80% counted.
Update (23.30): PT win in Fortaleza, take Campinas and Vitória, but lose Porto Alegre (all Portuguese).
Update (23:45): Marta concedes defeat to Serra after 90% of votes counted, at 55-44 (Portuguese).
Update (00.00): Lula claims "Brazil has once again set an example for democracy". Analysts: short-term damage limited to coalition in Congress, re-election in 2006 dependent on the economy, not Sao Paulo.

Where's a fat lady when you need one?
Early exit polls just in suggest that Serra has taken Sao Paulo, according to Bloomberg, while in Porto Alegre it really is down to a nail-biting finish. Reuters, on the other hand, make the following assessment:

"If anything is to be read into the election, analysts say, it is that neither the PT nor the PSDB will come out too far ahead of the other."

News just in... Rocco Buttiglione is a Catholic! Stay tuned for further announcements.

We will smash the imperialist pigs at dawn! Oh sorry, trick or treat?
The march of socialism in Latin America continues with news that Uruguay is set to elect a president of the Left, also today. Sunday October 31 will live on in the hearts of international socialists everywhere as not only the day of pagan ritual in the form of Halloween, but also as the day the Left consolidated its grip on Latin America:

"If [Vazquez] wins, he will be the country's first left-wing president - following a trend set by Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela, all of whom have left-of-centre leaders."

Next stop, Peru and Paraguay!

Columbia might take a little longer.

Anyhow, that's almost Central America. And we don't count Guiana and Suriname, do we?

But unfortunately comrades, the news from Sao Paulo, citadel of Lula's forces of IMF-compliant socialism, is not so good, according to (the US-run) Bloomberg, which predicts a narrow victory for the technocrat Serra and his party of so-called social democracy.

The "projected loss" of Porto Alegre from the PT's iron grip is bad news for PhD students and left-wing journal editors from Hampstead to Islington, Bloomsbury to Aldwych. Take heart comrades, take heart. Its loss will not have been in vain.

Final verdict?
On the last day of the election campaign Datafolha published their final poll. Jose Serra (PSDB) is on 54% and Marta Suplicy (PT) on 46%. Both have seen their fortunes rise since a previous poll (Serra on 49% and Marta on 42%) which came out on Thursday. Ibope also publishes their final figures, which is exactly the same.

Admittedly, if the figures exclude those likely to spoil their ballots or still as yet completely convinced of their candidate choice, the figures are slightly lower in the Datafolha poll, with Serra on 50% and Marta on 43%. Bringing in this factor means that Ibope has Serra on 49% and Marta on 41%. But in both cases it’s still an improvement on three days ago.

It still means that Marta will have a lot to do if she’s to close the gap by the end of voting today though.

Reaction
As you can imagine, the PSDB was pleased at the findings while the PT promised to turn it all around at the polls.

When they weren’t doing that the PT was also trying to downplay expectations. In conversation with journalists, President Lula’s chief-of-staff, Jose Dirceu, said that what was important wasn’t the second round in Sao Paulo, but the party’s successes in the first round three weeks ago: ‘In the second round the election stops being party-political. The candidates are chosen on a pragmatic basis.’

Getting around
In terms of actual campaigning on foot, Marta hit the Metro to ask for votes. Meanwhile Serra went out to the east and south of the city where his rival did well in the first round. Part of his timetable included eating a feijoada (beans, rice and plenty of pork) at a restaurant in the east of the city. All in all, a much more preferable way to campaign compared to Marta’s journey by public transport, I think. Following a good lunch, Serra then took a helicopter with his party colleague and Sao Paulo state governor, Geraldo Alckmin, to mass in the south of the city. Which probably gives you some kind of idea what Serra thought of Marta's own mode of transport during the day...

Lula's support
After all the talk about whether Lula would be entering into the Sao Paulo race, we finally have evidence of this support. He called Marta yesterday morning to wish her luck. As regular readers will recall, Lula got into hot water earlier this month after the electoral authorities fined him R$50,000 for speaking out of turn and in favour of Marta at a public event in September. Perhaps the phone call was the safest option for all concerned.
But it’s hardly the kind of public endorsement that I suspect most people were expecting.

Still undecided?
After all the reporting, commentary, TV ads and debates you would think that most people would have made their minds up as to they will vote for. But that’s not necessarily the case, if you’re looking at the Folha’s web pages this morning. They have profiles of both Marta and Serra for readers to look at, presumably before they walk down to the polls.

But really, you’d have to be either frozen in ice or dead for the last two months not to have noticed the small matter of an election going on…

Numbers, lovely numbers
As the polls open this morning, spare a thought for the organisers. Up to 27 million voters will be casting their ballots today in 43 different cities, 15 of which are state capitals. The PT is running in 36 of these contests with the PSDB in 30. In the first round the PT managed to elect around 400 mayors; the PSDB scored double, with 861. But the big winner was the PMDB with 1,040 mayors (although many of these are in smaller, less important cities). And in Sao Paulo state, the PSDB was victorious in 190 cities in the first round; the PT, by contrast, only elected 53. In today’s elections the PT and the PSDB will be facing each other in 10 out of the 43 contests.

Not running smoothly...
But one contest the PT won’t be involved in is in the Sao Paulo state city of Maua. At the eleventh hour the authorities barred the PT’s candidate from facing his Green Party rival in the second round after he was judged to have taken part in some irregular election publicity through a public exhibition on the city’s history. Last night a protest had brought 10,000 people onto the streets, among them leaders from the industrial belt around Sao Paulo.

Let’s just hope these contests are all clean and don’t compare to what has apparently happened in the city of Ruropolis in the south of Para state. Campaign worker Edvan Abreu de Souza claims that he is in hiding after admitting buying 667 votes for an election coalition which included the PSDB and Paulo Maluf’s PP.

...and possible worries here?
Finally, while the debate about electronic voting rages on in the United States, the electoral authorities will checks to make sure that the voting machines in Sao Paulo are working properly.

This will involve running a process of ‘parallel voting’ at some stations in which electronic votes will be accompanied with paper ballots to ensure there are no mistakes during polling day itself. Which does beg the question: what happens if the authorities subsequently find out there were irregularities in their test centres? Will it void the election? You can imagine the lawyers licking their lips at the prospect of fat lawsuits to follow.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Eve of poll
With minds concentrated firmly on the race for the Oval office this weekend (though we might rightly think of ourselves as a Latin-fused version of Wonkette.com), it's slim pickings in the English language coverage of the Sao Paulo race. Perhaps the month-long gap between voting rounds confused people (lest I sound like an imperialist, why not just have a proper proportional system and be done with it?). Anyhow:

"When Michigan State-educated sexologist Marta Suplicy was elected mayor of South America's largest city, the talk was that her next stop would be Brazil's presidency."

Cough, splutter. Though they are bang-on regarding why Marta will probably lose tomorrow:

"Yet Suplicy, 59, a former TV commentator on sexual behavior, also has grown a reputation for arrogance and aloofness. Moreover, she's done exactly what Brazilian wives aren't supposed to do: shed her popular Brazilian lawmaker spouse for a handsome new Franco-Argentine husband."

But elsewhere, it's merely a case of the mid-term blues for the PT. And the worst part?

"But a projected loss in the party's liberal stronghold of Porto Alegre, where it's ruled almost uninterrupted in the 16 years since military rule ended in Brazil, is the most stinging.

Da Silva's Workers' Party grew out of urban opposition in Sao Paulo to Brazil's long military dictatorship. But its first real victories were in Porto Alegre, the capital of the southernmost state of Rio Grande de Sul. In recent years, the city has become synonymous with the annual World Social Forum, hosting a gathering of left-leaning political groups and global nongovernment organizations.

Porto Alegre swam against the tide of conservative federal governments in Brazil that preceded da Silva's election. Then, heartened by his campaign pledge to create 2.5 million jobs a year, improve social services and narrow the gap between rich and poor, Porto Alegre backed him stoutly in 2002.

Now, a dismayed coalition of opposition groups has grabbed the lead in the mayoral race, not to mention the Workers' Party's basic campaign promise of 2002: change."

OK, the PT might cope with the loss of Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo if it holds the reigns to the presidency, even though in a federalised country like Brazil its political fortunes seem fragmented and to be receding. But to the outside world, particularly the anti-globalisation buffs, it merely demonstrates the Left's perennial ability to lose power in a spectacular fashion.

Enough of my analysis, what about the sentiment on the ground?

"Olivio Dutra, former Workers' Party mayor of Porto Alegre and ex-governor of Rio Grande do Sul state, predicted a comeback victory.

"We have never easily won an election, and isn't that great?" he said."

If you say so. And now for a brave face:

"Marcelo Deda, a former Workers' Party leader in Congress and current mayor of the northeastern city of Aracaju, countered that gains in midsize cities nationwide will offset losses in a few big cities."

Fight! fight!
President Lula is asking the justice minister to refine the charges against Marta Suplicy’s (PT) campaign manager, Duda Mendonca. He suspects his arrest at a cockfight last week may well have been motivated by his political rivals, who maintain contacts at some levels in the Federal Police.

You can get the left into government, it seems. But getting them to trust the machine of state is another matter entirely.

A PFL congressman, Fernando de Fabinho, would like to legalise all animal fights, from cockerels to pit bulls. ‘It’s animal nature. It’s not cruel. It’s a Brazilian custom not to do anything bad to anyone else. We need to decriminalise it.’

Can I propose a supplementary law which would allow right-wing baiting with a cattle prod as well?

Close, but not close enough
We noted in this column the other day that Marta was closing the gap on Jose Serra (PSDB) – but perhaps not enough before the election takes place. Unfortunately, her rejection level still remains above Serra’s too. Even though it fell by two points to 43% over the last week, Serra’s has also dropped as well, by one to 32%.

As readers may recall, we noticed that the PT look like they may lose Porto Alegre for the first time since taking power there in 1988. As a result the state governor, Germano Rigotto (PMDB), believes that the party is more concerned about doing well in that contest than Sao Paulo. And you can see his point: Porto Alegre is the symbol that the PT presents to the world, as the birthplace of participatory budgeting (now recognised and applauded by institutions like the World Bank and the UN) and the World Social Forum. Polls later showed that the current PT mayor was five points behind his challenger.

Meeting the masses
On Thursday during the religious festival, Serra made a visit to a church in the south of the city. His arrival, coinciding with the mass, caused chaos. He had to take refuge in the back until the service was over before he could address the audience. Meanwhile, on the same day Marta was promising to being more of her educational centres to the centre of the city if re-elected.

She also made plans to carry out a campaign on the Metro on Saturday to try and drum up support among its users. I wonder whether we would be allowed to get away with that on London’s underground. Probably not, but then it wouldn’t make much sense anyway. Can you imagine being a candidate wedged up against someone’s armpit and unable to move, let alone speak? I wonder if Marta’s given any thought to how she’s going to tackle that.

Speaking of London, the Estadao notes that the Financial Times has picked up on the potential problems for the PT in Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre. I wonder whether we can claim to be one of their sources.

It's all overblown
After the barbed criticisms made by Eduardo Suplicy’s girlfriend, Monica Dallari, against his former wife, Marta, Eduardo went public on Thursday. He tried to downplay the comments she had made last week, which seemed designed to weaken and discredit Marta’s campaign.

I’m not buying it though. What about you?

Support comes to Marta from another quarter though. Gilberto Dimenstein, a Folha columnist, believes that Marta is being persecuted by the media because of her feminist image, including her role in breaking up with Eduardo. Unfortunately for her, Suplicy is extremely popular in Sao Paulo.

Grumble
TV Globo has complained to the PSDB not to use images of their journalist Chico Pinheiro or the SPTV logo on their electoral publicity anymore. They claim that their use has never been authorised.

Disappearing voters
Headmaster Serra also had campaign workers out on Thursday handing out leaflets to encourage Sao Paulo residents not to go away this weekend. The leaflets carry the phrase: ‘For Sao Paulo don’t travel this weekend. Swap four days for four years.’

He will be worried, not least by estimates of 1.3 million cars leaving the city for a long weekend, brought about by the public holidays at the end of this week and on Monday. The more who leave, the less will be around to vote for Headmaster Serra – or so the logic goes.

And Paulo Maluf (PP) will be voting as soon as polls open, at 8am before leaving the city to take advantage of the holiday weekend. I suspect that’s one voter the Serra camp would be quite happy to see take the whole weekend off.

On the box
Friday night was debate night between the candidates. It was also the end of free TV publicity for the two as well. During the TV spots Marta used the opportunity to remind the voters about her efforts in creating bus lanes, education centres and the single public transport ticket. Serra told the electorate about his work as health minister, including generic medicines, increased AIDS drug availability and action against cataracts. In the later TV ads in the evening, Marta focused on the narrowing of the polls over the last few weeks, while Serra banged on about health.

The same themes followed in the debate after. Marta talked about her education policies and the likelihood of Serra not continuing them if he was elected. The tucano explored the issue of health in the city and criticised the federal government’s cut in social projects. Refreshingly, there were few personal attacks on display. Then again they were probably told by advisers not to do so, since it would have been churlish and gone down badly with voters this close to polling day.

The debate drew 32 points – in TV parlance – equating to around 1.5 million households. That’s a huge improvement on the first debate after the second round, which then drew only 11 points.

Both candidates will hope they did well. Estadao guru, Fatima Pacheco Jordao, said before the event that the debate would be a huge risk for both and that the candidates’ performances could well have an impact on the eventual result. But Ibope pollster, Marcia Cavallari, doesn’t see the contest as evenly balanced as that. She reckons that a win for Marta would be ‘very difficult’, given the current figures.

Rallies
Friday also saw the two parties put on rallies to raise their candidates’ profiles. The PT brought together 500 people along Avenida Paulista while the PSDB drew a similar sized crowd in other central streets, culminating in the Sa Square.

Dodgy...
The electoral authorities ordered the seizure of leaflets circulating in the city that were decked out in blue and yellow, the tucano colours. The leaflets carried the phrase: ‘Politics is a man’s thing. A woman’s place is in the kitchen.’ The PSDB has contacted its lawyers while the PT’s campaign team deny that this is dirty tricks on their part.

Unlikely...
Finally, the PSDB is trying to ‘paulistise’ the election in Vitoria, Espirito Santo. With the PT leading the PSDB in the second round, the tucanos are trying to discredit the petistas by linking them with Maluf. Which is laughable, as anyone who knows the PT in that state knows: they managed to drum out many of the moderate centrists in their party quite effectively seven years ago.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The wooden guy's in front... no, not John Kerry
As we enter the polling weekend, I'll do one final entry before the post-election mop-up operation.

Mayor of a World City, pretty significant, huh? 10m people (18m, if you include the hinterland) all dependent on services from education and health to public works and rubbish disposal. But wait...

"A Serra election in Sao Paulo would pave the way for [Geraldo] Alckmin to contend for the presidential nomination for the Social Democracy Party in 2006, said lower house deputy Julio Redecker."

So that's what it's all about, eh? Presidential elections in two years time. The city doesn't even get a look in. For shame PSDB, for shame. But the petistas can still count on the unions, right?

"A Serra victory may raise concerns that the Workers' Party is losing strength less than two years after Lula, a former union leader, swept to office with about 60 percent of the vote, said Roberto Soares, a director for the Sao Paulo Metallurgic Workers' Union. Suplicy, 59, who placed second to Serra in the first round vote, created 12 new taxes and began road improvement projects that exacerbated traffic snarls in the city of 12 million people.

"Lula will end up suffering the damage from Suplicy's lousy administration -- it's a rather strong symbolic defeat for the Workers' Party,'' Soares said in an interview."

The way the Associated Press' syndicated article on the Guardian site talks about it, you'd think the Sao Paulo mayoralty was some kind of runner-up prize for Serra for having lost against Lula in the presidential elections two years ago. It comes full-circle with the conclusion that even if Lula loses Sao Paulo this weekend, he'll still romp home in 2006 as the problem is Marta herself, not the PT itself.

Before Marta throws in the towel and packs her bags for the rumoured diplomatic posting in Paris though, there's one tiny glimmer of hope in this Washington Times article, but not much. I know if I was Lula, I wouldn't want an ex-mayor with that level of profile in my party floating around with nothing to do.

Bonne chance, Marta.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Closing the gap
New polls came out yesterday. Marta Suplicy (PT) is closing the gap on Jose Serra (PSDB), but it may well be too little too late. Datafolha’s latest shows that Marta’s risen one point to 41% with Serra dropping back two points to 49% over the last week. Over at Ibope, the runes suggest Serra has fallen two points to 49% and Marta has risen by three, to 40%. Since the first round nearly three weeks ago, the tucano’s lead has dropped from 14% to 9%.

Just as in the months before the first round, Marta is closing the gap. But it may well be that the three weeks between the first and second round is just not long enough to close it completely. It also raises the question of legitimacy for the new mayor if he or she doesn’t get more than 50% of the vote. One of the criticisms made against the first Sao Paulo PT administration under Erundina (1989-92) was that she never got a majority of the vote. This meant she was continually challenged by other political forces in the city who believed her mandate was insufficient to justify the policies she tried to drive through.

In response to the poll findings, Marta sounded triumphant. A note from the campaign team suggested that the candidate’s rise could be attributed to the ‘strength of activists… asking for votes.’ Serra meanwhile refused to comment.

I wonder to what extent the slight reversal in his fortunes is due to his head masterly tone in telling the public not to go on holiday over the long weekend but stay in the metropolis to vote.

Maluf as inmate?
Having been accused in Brazil for financial evasion, Paulo Maluf’s (PP) troubles don’t stop there. Yesterday it was reported that he’s also going to be required to make formal statements to the Swiss authorities as well. Assuming the process went through to completion, Maluf could be facing up to five years in prison in Switzerland if he was found guilty of financial crimes committed in the European country.

And given the image of prisons in Brazil – most recently in the film Carandiru – perhaps spending a few years in Geneva penitentiary wouldn’t be such a hardship…

Suspicious?
Two weeks after giving up her mayoral duties, Marta has taken them up once again. Call me a cynic, but it couldn’t have anything to do with being able to use the last few days to attend events and other gatherings where she can be formally addressed as mayor? And surely she wouldn’t try and make any last minute pronouncements or changes at City Hall? Like the one she did last week, when she tinkered with the city’s finances to accommodate payments to certain city-employed workers?

Would she?

Journey north
Readers of this column may well be wondering what the other failed candidate for mayor, Erundina (PSB), has been up to. After all, it’s been almost wall-to-wall coverage of Maluf and his shady financial dealings, but from the other former mayor of Sao Paulo, we’ve heard not a squeak. Well, I am happy to report that she’s not in the city at present, but rather in the more pleasant climate of Salvador. Having decided she wasn’t going to support Marta in the second round, she’s headed north to help the PDT candidate, Joao Henrique Carneiro, in his bid to become mayor this Sunday.

Although I’m not sure having someone who hoovered up less than 10% of the vote is necessarily someone you want to be associated with – especially, when Ibope has you running at just over 70% of the vote against your rival’s 24%.

Then again, it may well be one of those elderly-grandmother-indulgent-young-grandson-things…

Something to cheer...
Finally, again this has nothing to do with Sao Paulo, but it’s worth noting nonetheless. While the PT may well not win Sao Paulo (or Porto Alegre for that matter), a party colleague of Marta’s, Joao Coser, looks like he may well take the Espirito Santo state capital of Vitoria. The latest Ibope poll there shows him on 52% of the vote against the PSDB’s 35%. Tucanos had run the city since 1993 and appeared the dominant force in the state. If the PT wins this will be a remarkable turnaround for a party which all but destroyed itself in 1997 when one of the party’s first state governors, Vitor Buaiz, publicly broke with the party.

When I was out in Vitoria back in 2000, doing fieldwork on the PT’s propensity to self-combust, I recall speaking to trade union official who was convinced that the split would set the left back in Espirito Santo by 20 years. Instead, it looks like it may well only be seven. I’ll be keeping my eye on this contest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Crisis in the right
The right doesn’t know which way to go. While Paulo Maluf (PP) is supporting Marta Suplicy’s (PT) candidacy, the Sao Paulo branch of the party has thrown its weight behind Jose Serra (PSDB). Former Maluf voters must be wondering which alliance their party is in exactly.

At least one person knows what to do. Antonio Salim Curiati Junior, Maluf’s running mate as candidate for vice-mayor, has offered this resignation to the PP, to ‘correct the error I committed in accepting the recommendation of the party’s national executive to support the PT… which wasn’t accepted by my voters, team, friends and intimates.’

Crisis in the left
Monica Dallari’s comments about Marta are causing problems within the PT campaign team. Dallari, the girlfriend of Marta’s ex-husband, Eduardo Suplicy, criticised the tone of Marta’s campaign as well as the explicit drive to get Maluf onside. One member of the team complained that Eduardo should never have allowed Dallari to do the interview and that her words may well have prejudiced Marta’s campaign.

After the crisis at the end of last week when the PT campaign manager, Duda Mendonca, was arrested for his involvement in a cockfight, petistas are getting jittery: it’s just more bad news after bad.

In the circumstances, there’s little the candidate can do other than avoid making any response to the accusations.

But one thing she was prepared to talk about was the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the right to abortion in cases where the foetus is brain damaged. Marta said the Court was ‘wrong’ during an interview with Bandeirantes radio yesterday. Well, that’s interesting and shows her feminist credentials – but I’d be interested to know about her thoughts on Dallari’s comments regarding her campaign.

Perhaps as a concession, Marta also revealed during the interview that she doesn’t feel comfortable having her image next to Maluf’s on the minibuses which are driving around the city in support of her campaign.

If that’s supposed to make traditional PT supporters feel more secure, that the left finds it uncomfortable getting into bed with the right – metaphorically of course – she’s rather hoping for a lot, don’t you think? After all that effort trying to get Maluf to come in for coffee (we’re still speaking in metaphors, OK?) and now she’s saying it was all a mistake. I would say typical, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve been suitably ashamed by some of my choices in the part as well.

Marta, you’re not alone. But sympathy will only come if you don’t do it again. Which judging by some of the PT’s bedfellows over the last few years makes me wonder whether it’s a party which rather enjoys the ‘rough stuff’.

Motoring along nicely
Serra meanwhile was yesterday on Eldorado radio to talk about his governing program for the city.

He claimed that his party had the ability to manage the city effectively.

During the time he was on air he said that the reason City Hall hadn’t introduced the single transport ticket was because they wanted all the credit for doing so. According to him, ‘The version I have is that City Hall avoided involving the state government in the single transport ticket because they wanted to do it alone and gain the electoral credit.’

In other words, the PT explanation – that the city and state systems needed to be integrated before the ticket could be introduced – was wrong.

Serra then cancelled his interview on the ‘Roda Viva’ (Live Circle) program on TV Cultura yesterday – after having criticised Marta for deciding not to take part.

Later, during a walkabout in the city, Serra returned to his theme of the week: that the electorate shouldn’t take advantage of the holiday this weekend, but stay at home and vote.

He’s becoming more like a headmaster every day – and not a popular one at that either.

True or not?
Early this morning the PT campaign team had to publish a note to the media, acknowledging that they had published a newspaper, Sao Paulo Verdade (Sao Paulo Truth), which was doing the rounds of the city centre and being sold out of at least one newsstand there. The newspaper didn’t carry any details regarding its publishers, which is required under electoral law.

This could be a story which might run – and cause the PT yet more bad news. Soon after the news broke, electoral authorities obtained copies of the newspaper to determine whether any further investigation was necessary. Not only does Sao Paulo Verdade not include details of its backers, it is designed to look like another newspaper, Agora, and carries a number of anti-Serra articles.

The electoral authorities acted upon the request of Luis Francisco da Silva Carvalho Filho, a lawyer for the firm which edits Agora, complained that Sao Paulo Verdade was designed to ‘confuse the reader’.

Numbers
Finally, three weeks after the first round, more than 27 million Brazilians will be returning to the polls this weekend in 44 cities to decide once and for all, who will be their mayors for the next four years. Sao Paulo state has the most voters this Sunday: 11.7 million in 12 cities, including 7.8 million in Sao Paulo alone.

Always assuming that they heed Headmaster Serra's comments and they aren't sneaking off to the beach to enjoy the holiday weekend.

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