Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva looks poised to clinch an easy
re-election at next month’s presidential poll.
Economic and financial indicators shine as a bright spot and a
strong electoral asset in the balance of his first presidential
mandate. He may indeed be cruising towards an outright first
round victory on October 1.
The blend of fiscal responsibility ("not spending more than
you earn") and social assistance (the flagship Bolsa Familia
scheme) has worked wonders among a large number of voters,
especially among the poorest part of the electorate.
Lula’s main opponent, Geraldo Alckmin, from the
Social Democratic Party (PSDB), entered the official TV and
radio electoral campaign in mid-August with a handicap of 25
percentage points. The former governor of the state of Sao
Paulo has been praised for his competence, but he has emerged
as a lacklustre candidate. Former president Fernando Henrique
Cardoso is among those who feel that Alckmin’s
presidential campaign is not well-tuned and remains distant
from the aspirations of Brazil’s social groups.
Meanwhile, Heloisa Helena, a combative hard left candidate,
from the recently created Socialism and Freedom Party (Psol),
is set to attract much of the protest vote, thanks to a mix of
anti-capitalist rhetoric and moral values.
Income disparities are widely reflected in voters’
intentions, with the more affluent Brazilians leaning towards
Alckmin and the low-income population preferring Lula. As a
result, Rogerio Schmitt from the Tendencias consultancy sees "a
very comfortable scenario" for Lula, and the
incumbent’s lead is widely seen as irreversible.
Most of the population has benefited from low inflation and job
creation in the formal sector, real wages and consumer credit
have increased, and 11 million poor families now benefit
directly from the Bolsa Familia programme.
Nevertheless, Lula’s Workers’ Party
(PT), whose reputation has been marred by severe corruption
allegations, does not enjoy the same popularity rating and is
bound to lose seats in Congress and among state governors.
Prospects for a governing coalition are still distant, as the
main centrist Party of the Democratic Movement (PMDB) remains
split (for and against Lula). As a result, the balance of power
between the executive and the legislature may be even trickier
than it has been during the past four years, and the chances of
voting important structural reforms look slim.