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Brazil’s presidential elections: Lula moves to the left, who benefits of it: Rousseff or Serra?

Lula's Chief of Staff and Presidential Candidate Dilma Rousseff, photo courtesy of Arquivo PAN

Lula's Chief of Staff and Presidential Candidate Dilma Rousseff, photo courtesy of Arquivo PAN

The campaign for the Brazilian Presidential elections is in full speed.  But nobody knows who will be the final winner. The Brazilian cabinet’s chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff (presidential candidate of the governmental political party PT)  is now technically tied with opposition candidate Jose Serra in the country’s presidential race, different  opinion polls showed recently.

The social democrat candidate José Serra, governor of Sao Paulo State, has 33.2 percent of voting intention while Rousseff, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s handpicked candidate, gets 27.8 percent, according to the CNT/Sensus survey.  As the survey has a margin of error of three percentage points, the two candidates are now technically tied, analysts said.

Simultaneously, Lula had until February great approval ratings, there is no doubt that he is the most popular Brazilian President in the last 50 years. That situation gives Lula an extraordinary power over the result of the elections.

He is obligated to support his candidate Rousseff. Apparently, Lula wants her to win.

But, something is indicating that the opposite could be also possible. He must officially support Rousseff , but he could be acting to ensure Serra as the next President of all Brazilians.

Why? Well, in the last weeks, President Lula has made some brave political gestures that could partially erode his image among the politically centrists. If Lula is criticized by the public opinion, that could damage Rousseff and benefit José Serra.

 Which are the last political moves of President Lula?   

For the first, Lula is now criticised for comments in which he appeared to compare Cuban dissidents to common criminals. In an interview he told the AP news agency that hunger strikes, which some dissidents have staged, were not a pretext for release. Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, who is on hunger strike, said he felt betrayed by Lula’s comments. Mr Farinas, 48, has been staging his protest for the past fortnight to seek the release of ailing political prisoners from Cuban jails. He began his action after jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who had been on hunger strike for several weeks, died last month. His death provoked widespread international condemnation and calls for the release of all Cuba’s detained political dissidents. The Cuban government has said it will not bow to what it calls the “blackmail” of hunger strikes. “We have to respect the decisions of the Cuban legal system and the government to arrest people on the laws of Cuba, like I want them to respect Brazil,” said Lula, who himself was a political activist against Brazil’s military government in the 1970s and 1980s. Lula said he believed there was hypocrisy involved in the criticism of Cuba: “It’s not just in Cuba that people died from hunger strikes.”

Secondly, in regard to the UN sanctions against Iran, President Lula wants to continue negotiations with Iran. He sustains that Brazil is able to convince Iran to give up their nuclear ambitions.

Third, he started now the cotton war with the United States. Brazil will difficult the import of one hundred American products as a reaction to the American subsidies of the local production of cotton.

Fourth, he issued public statements in which he criticized Britain and the United Nations in regard to the Falklands/Malvinas.  

Brazilian Presidential Candidate José Serra

Brazilian Presidential Candidate José Serra

These political moves of President Lula are not a merely coincidence. He is a master politician. Make no mistakes, this is part of a electoral strategy. The question is: is he doing all this in order to benefit Rousseff or, on the contrary,  to definitely put himself (Lula) out of the campaign and therefore harm her chances to win? Does he believe that he can favor his candidate with his moves to the left and making a sort of “anti-imperial nationalistic” manifesto?  Or is he trying to put them too far to the left, living the center of the political spectrum to the more moderate José Serra?

Dilma Rousseff is quickly gaining momentum and is now closer to presidential frontrunner Jose Serra in Brazil, according to the last poll by Datafolha published in Folha de Sao Paulo. 32 per cent of respondents would vote for Serra, governor of Sao Paulo and candidate of the conservative Brazilian Party of Social Democracy (PSDB), down five points since December.

Rousseff, chief of staff of the current government and candidate of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), is a close second with 28 per cent, up five points.

Another question: if  Serra is down five points since December and Rousseff is ascending day by day, why is President Lula now –suddenly- starting to support  the Cuban justice system, negotiating with Iran, declaring the “cotton war” to the United States?

Final question: none of the current presidential candidates will win in the first electoral round. There will be a ballotage. No doubt about it. If Lula continues to move to the left, the only one to benefit in the second round of Lula´s political positioning , will be the social democrat José Serra.

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