Brazil: Lula close to winning

PT gets highest vote in first round and goes to runoff. The Workers Party candidate, Lula, got the highest vote for president in the first round. With 99% of votes counted, he had 46.4% of valid votes against 23.2% for pro-government candidate José Serra (PSDB). The other main candidates, Garotinho (PSB) and Gomes (PPS) got 17.9% and 12% respectively. Despite his upward trend over recent weeks, Lula did not make the 50% needed for a first-round decision.

The result is major progress for the PT electorally in relation to previous years and it places Lula as favourite for the runoff on October 27th.

In the first round for state governors, the PT took Piauí and Jorge Viana was re-elected in Acre. There will be PT candidates in the runoff in 8 states – including São Paulo, for the first time in the history of the PT, where the candidate José Genoíno will face Governor Alckmin of the PSDB.

In addition to governor of São Paulo, the PT may elect Zeca in Mato Grosso do Sul and hold on to its governor in Rio Grande do Sul with Tarso Genro where the runoff, in a state already governed by the PT, is likely to be bitter and polarized.

In Brasília, Amapá (where the PT already had the vice governor), Pará, Ceará and Sergipe, there will also be PT candidates in the runoff.

The main negative point was the defeat of the PT ’s Benedita da Silva in Rio de Janeiro in the first round by the PSB’s Rosinha Garotinho, wife of presidential candidate Antony Garotinho. The defeat resulted from all the opportunists errors of the PT leadership in the state which went against the rank and file to support and take part in Garotinho’s state government until just recently.

In congress, the expectation is that the PT will elect 91 deputies, up 35% in relation to the current 59. Meanwhile PSDB is likely to lose 20 to 30 and have less than the PT. Nevertheless, the centre and right parties such as the PMDB and PFL maintain their majority.

The PT will also grow from 7 to 14 senators to be the third force in the Senate. The PSDB of Serra and Cardoso lost 3 senators and will have 11 in the next legislature.

Although it has grown, the PT is still a minority in congress, even in alliance with the centre-left parties. If Lula wins and becomes president there will be enormous pressure to broaden political agreements with bourgeois parties including even the PSDB itself.

Polarization in runoff

More than 100 million people queued for up to 7 hours in temperatures reaching 40 degrees in some areas. Most voters were showing their opposition to the current government and wanted change. This is the big problem for the pro-Cardoso candidate, José Serra, in the second round.

He will try to come across as less linked to the present government and with more qualifications than Lula to face up the inevitable economic turbulence over the next period.

Lula will try to show that only a social pact uniting all can offer a way out. He will therefore try to reach agreements even weirder than the first round ones.

This approach allows Garotinho to hypocritically say that his support for Lula in the runoff depends on the PT calling off agreements with politicians such as former-president Sarney.

However, the clash between Lula and Serra will provoke further social and political polarization throughout the country even though there are many who do not want this.

In the first round, a section of the bosses thought that Serra could not win. They therefore thought it would be better if Lula won in the first round. They hoped this would avoid a protracted confrontation between the PT and the PSDB and help prepare the ground for an agreement between them for a future Lula government.

The second round runoff will now take place in the context of increased polarization and crisis. This may well create further obstacles for the ’moderate line’ of most of the PT leadership.

Lula’s new image

The PT majority leadership believes the result has shown that Lula was right to adopt his new image of "peace and love". However, the high vote for Lula is not because he is now ready to sit down for talks with everybody. It is not because he diluted the PT program to reach electoral agreements with former enemies, or mollify international bankers. People voted for Lula expecting profound changes. In practice, his approach caused difficulties. In the final stages of the campaign, the PT membership lacked the campaigning vigour of the past. The party’s roots are among the most conscious workers in the cities and the countryside. These layers felt confused about what was happening. This surely helped undermine the chances of a first round victory.

In an effort to enthuse the PT rank and file , at Lula’s last rally in São Paulo, the PT chairman José Dirceu even said hypocritically that the "long awaited social revolution was finally coming". At the same rally, Lula said that the rank and file had no need to worry, and that he would carry out the PT program when elected.

This confusion among the advanced workers and sectors of the peoples is just what Serra needs to upset the PT’s electoral plans and the prospects of genuine change expected from a Lula government.

Lula did not do well in the last TV debate. He made mistakes and came over as not having any position on anything so as not to offend anybody. He even apologised to Serra for perhaps having criticised him and gave no firm or clear answers. Everything will be discussed and negotiated between workers, companies and government. The social pact is the answer for everything.

This approach could be disastrous in the runoff. Serra does have a programme for the coming crisis. He wants to pay blood money to the international speculators, pay Brazil’s debt with the hunger of the people and hand over the country to the interests of imperialism through the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas).

Lula should clearly pose the need for a socialist alternative that does not make the majority of the people bear the burden of the crisis but breaks with capitalism.

Building a socialist alternative

In any case, a Lula victory would be a milestone in the history of the Brazilian working class. A former-worker becoming president in this country that is world champion of social inequality will have big repercussions and initially give confidence to the working class! It will release the energy of the mass movement and also stimulate a re composition and re organization of the Brazilian left.

The socialist left outside the PT did not do as well as it had expected. Two parties described as Trotskyist were running for president. Zé Maria of the PSTU got some 400,000 votes (0.5%). This is double his 1998 number, but much less than expected. In the final stretch of the campaign, Zé Maria lost the votes of people who are critical of Lula’s current moderate polices but wanted a Lula victory in the first round. The PCO got an insignificant 0.05%.

The PSTU leadership posed a critical vote in Lula in the runoff despite some problems they will have with a certain sectarianism among their members.

In the first round the PT left got good results and elected several deputies at national level and in the states. Some were clearly elected on a left position. Others tended to adapt and not openly criticize the majority line. In any case, there is a profound process of questioning and debate underway among the PT left rank and file in relation to the future of the party and the tasks for socialists in the next period.

The positions won should be used to build a solid socialist alternative to the policy of the PT majority leadership. Building this alternative is what will determine the future of Brazil in the next period.

Build left alternative in elections and in struggle

In these elections, Revolutionary Socialism, the Brazilian section of CIO/CWI, which is organized as a Marxist tendency of the PT, called for a critical vote for Lula and defended a socialist program and strategy as alternatives to the position of the PT leadership.

As part of this policy, Miguel Leme ran for state deputy in São Paulo. He is a member of the leadership of Apeoesp, the state teachers union.

Miguel’s campaign was not separate from struggle. In the last week before the elections, SR members were leading an important strike of municipal teachers in Cotia, near São Paulo. The strike met with police repression and there were several injured and three comrades were arrested. Nevertheless, the strike is still going strong.

Despite all the pressure to moderate the program and win elections at any price, Miguel got 1,150 votes defending a socialist PT without the bosses. His votes in his local area will help the political and electoral work of SR there in the future.

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