Angus Reid Global Monitor
Brazil - Alckmin forces Lula into run-off
October 29, 2006
Credit: Flag courtesy of ITA’s Flags of All Countries used with permission.
Election Date: October 29, 2006
At Stake: President, National Congress
The largest and most populous country in the Americas, Brazil boasts a unique cultural and environmental demographic. Accounting for 14 per cent of the world’s renewable fresh water reserves and the world’s largest rainforest, its population is diverse—divided into six major ethnicities—and urban.
Indigenous Brazilians are thought to be descendants of migrants who crossed the Bering Land Bridge around 9000 BC eventually reaching the southern cone and Brazil some 3000 years later. At the time of European discovery, indigenous Brazilians were represented by a large number of nations diverse in language and culture.
Discovered by Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500, the indigenous population was first devastated by disease and then enslaved. It is thought that most of the 2,000 nations that existed at colonization died out in this first period. Lacking a readily accessible indigenous population, the Portuguese began to import slaves from Africa in 1550, only abolishing the practice in 1888.
Administered from Lisbon until 1808, Rio de Janeiro became the centre of Portuguese royalty after Dom Joao VI and his family fled Napoleon’s army. His son declared Brazil independent in 1822, naming himself Emperor Dom Pedro I. The family ruled until 1889 when a military coup led by Deodoro da Fonseca deposed the Emperor.
A constitutional republic between 1889 and 1930, the presidency alternated between Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais—dominant states at the time—until a revolt installed Getulio Vargas as dictator.
Overthrown by a military coup in 1945, Vargas was later reinstalled as president via elections in 1951 but with heavy opposition and pressure to resign or again be deposed, he committed suicide in 1954.
The next six years saw rapid economic reform and growth under the leadership of Juscelino Kubitschek. His successor, Janio Quadros—elected in 1961—spiraled the country into crisis by resigning after just one month. Political instability escalated with Quadros’ successor, vice-president Joao Goulart, fleeing into exile after a military coup in 1964. The ensuing 10-year dictatorial regime eased only in 1974 with general Ernesto Geisel, whose reforms reestablished elections and allowed limited political freedoms.
The 1980’s introduced a decade of political, economic and social turmoil: Brazil defaulted on its foreign debt—one of the worlds largest—in 1982. In 1985, the country elected its first civilian president in 21 years, Tancredo Neves, who died shortly after being elected. Inflation spiraled out of control reaching 300 per cent in 1985 and 1,500 per cent in 1991, despite fiscal reform, price freezes and the introduction of free market policies.
Alleviating inflation but implementing restrictive policies on land distribution and indigenous land claims, Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s tenure as president was somewhat controversial in its approach to indigenous issues. The rise of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) introduced an organized force that in March 2002 occupied Cardoso’s family ranch and began to make international news.
With poverty, social reform and indigenous issues leading the political debate, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva led the first left-wing government into power in 40 years. A union leader and former shoe-shine boy, Lula began his first term in 2002 promising to address poverty, crime, and hunger. Despite some trepidation regarding fiscal management, Lula’s presidency surprised critics with its orthodox approach in achieving economic stability.
Seeking another term in office, Lula’s campaign has been marked by corruption allegations. Leaders of the Worker’s Party (PT) have been accused of making illegal campaign donations to coalition partners to secure their support. The hard gains won by Lula and the PT are being tested in the lead-up to the 2006 elections.
2006 President and National Congress Election
In June 2005, allegations of corruption were made public by Roberto Jefferson, leader of the Brazilian Labour Party (PTB) and member of the governing coalition. Although himself accused of heading a bribe network, Jefferson claimed that the PTB was offered but refused bribes to secure their ongoing support for Lula’s Worker’s Party (PT).
On Aug. 12, Lula made a public apology to the nation for the corruption scandal through a televised speech. In asking for forgiveness, he said, "I feel betrayed by unacceptable practices of which I knew nothing. (…) I haven’t changed and I’m certain that the same anger I feel is shared by the population."
Although leading in the polls, Lula’s popularity fluctuated with ongoing revelations around the corruption scandal. An October survey by Datafolha gave Lula the support of 30 per cent of voters in the first round, down from 34 per cent in July.
In October 2005, Brazilian voters rejected a ban on the sale of firearms, despite having the highest death rate from gun violence in the world. However, as noted by the ‘No’ campaigners—who were supported by 64 per cent of all voters—the majority of guns are acquired through the black market and not by legal means.
In November 2005, United States president George W. Bush made a one-day trip to Brazil. The close and amicable relations between the two countries have surprised some, but point to recognition in the U.S. that Brazil is an important ally in a region moving increasingly to the left.
In December 2005, Brazil announced that it would pay off its entire $15.5 billion U.S. debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) two years ahead of schedule. Borrowed in 2002 to save the country from defaulting on its external debt, Brazil’s strong economic performance since has enabled the early repayment.
As a result of the corruption scandal brought against Lula’s PT, 11 deputies have been brought before expulsion hearings with two standing down before the process began so that they are able to run in the upcoming election.
Approval ratings for Lula stabilized and increased in a February 2006 Datafolha poll against prospective rivals Jose Serra and Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Party of Social Democracy (PSDB). At one stage trailing Serra in the polls, Lula picked up six points to reach 39 per cent, with Serra at 31 per cent. Against Alckmin, Lula maintained a 26-point advantage.
The presidential election is scheduled for Oct. 1. If no candidate garners more than 50 per cent of all cast ballots, a run-off will take place on Oct. 29.
On Mar. 14, Alckmin was named as the PSDB’s presidential nominee. In his acceptance speech, Alckmin declared, "Brazil can no longer take this wave of corruption, and remain a country without a real project and with a very poor economic growth."
On Mar. 20, Alckmin proposed a "Chilean-style alliance" in order to defeat Lula in the election, declaring, "The opposition parties have a respectful relationship, and it is up to us to see if we can see this coalition come to fruition." Party of the Liberal Front (PFL) member Jorge Bornhausen agreed with the idea, adding, "We must stop this incompetent government that has been weak in dealing with corruption."
On Apr. 11, Brazilian attorney general Antonio Fernando de Souza delivered his report on the corruption scandal. The document claims the PT created a "sophisticated criminal organization" to buy the political support of other parties.
PT member Jose Dirceu—who tendered his resignation as Lula’s chief of staff after the scandal broke in June 2005—once again dismissed any wrongdoing, saying, "There were no bribes, the investigating commission has it all wrong and has no proof."
On Apr. 13, former president Itamar Franco announced he would seek the PMDB’s nomination, saying, "Garotinho and myself have different methods, but we both want the PMDB to have a single candidate." Franco governed the country from October 1992 to January 1995, after the suspension of Fernando Collor de Mello.
On Apr. 16, institutional relations minister Tarso Genro complained about the performance of the opposition, declaring, "The attacks on the current president have no parallel in the history of Brazil, not even during the tenure of Getulio Vargas. The government is under siege."
Polls released in April by IBPS, Datafolha and Sensus put Lula ahead with at least 40 per cent, followed by Alckmin with a high of 31 per cent.
On Apr. 30, Lula said the country’s finances can withstand more public spending, saying, "Today we can invest more because we created conditions for that, but without putting in danger our fiscal balance and control over inflation."
Poll released in May by IBPS, Datafolha and Instituto Sensus placed Lula as the frontrunner, with the support of more than 40 per cent of voters.
On May 23, Lula predicted that Brazil would become "the biggest energy player in the planet," adding, "We have become self-sufficient, in two years we will produce most of the natural gas we consume, and we are the most competitive nation in the areas of ethanol and bio-diesel."
On May 25, Lula discussed trade during a meeting with French president Jacques Chirac in Brasilia, saying, "We want to find a common denominator, fair and balanced, that allows for ambitious results at the Doha round talks to benefit especially the poor countries and that strengthens multilateralism." The Brazilian president also announced an association to develop "an international ethanol market and to disseminate technology for the production of biofuels in Africa and the Caribbean."
On May 27, Helena officially launched her presidential bid. In her acceptance speech, the senator urged her supporters to fight the "betrayal" of Lula, who expelled her from the PT after she criticized the government. Helena picked economist Carlos Benjamin—another former PT member—as her running mate.
In May, magazine Veja and newspaper O Globo reported alleged irregularities in Garotinho’s campaign finances. The PMDB contender denied the reports, went on a hunger strike and alleged a conspiracy to prevent him from becoming a presidential candidate. In the end, the party could opt to support Lula’s candidacy.
On May 29, the Party of the Liberal Front (PFL) finalized an alliance with the PSDB. The accord includes the nomination of PFL senator Jose Jorge as Alckmin’s running mate.
On Jun. 11, Alckmin vowed to reduce taxes in the South American nation, saying, "I am committed to send Congress a project on the first week of my mandate, to simplify the fiscal system, stimulate investment and increase efficiency. Last year in Latin America, Brazil only grew more than Haiti, a small country devastated by war."
In June, Alckmin’s running mate Jorge said a PSDB-led government would close several ministries to cut spending, adding, "Our administrative structure will be much smaller. We need to shrink the size of the public sector in order to cut public costs."
On Jun. 26, Lula officially launched his candidacy in Brasilia. The president declared, "I am here to tell you that I have humbly decided to submit my name and my government to the judgment of my Brazilian brothers." Current vice-president Jose Alencar will once again be Lula’s running mate.
On Jul. 10, Alckmin criticized Lula’s relationship with other leftist governments in South America, saying, "If elected, I will not sacrifice the country’s interests for the interests of a particular party."
In an interview published on Jul. 13 in the Financial Times, Lula discussed the nationalization of Bolivia’s oil and gas industry—which is expected to affect some Brazilian companies—saying, "The Brazilian conservative right wanted us to start a war with Bolivia. I preferred to negotiate and start looking for a solution. I never was nervous about the crisis. We need each other. Bolivia needs to sell gas to Brazil and Brazil needs to buy gas from Bolivia."
On Jul. 13, Lula vowed to continue taking care of Brazil’s workers, saying, "For us, social policy and economic policy are two sides of the same coin. Millions of Brazilians have left poverty behind during my government, and have joined the middle class."
Polls conducted in late June and early July by Vox Populi, Instituto Sensus and Datafolha put Lula in first place, but below the 45 per cent-mark.
On Jul. 21, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez jokingly endorsed Lula during a conference in Caracas, saying, "I cannot voice anything because they accuse me of interfering in a country’s internal affairs. Lula win! Lula win!" The Brazilian president replied, "We must remember that (Chávez) has more time than me to campaign, because he speaks twice as much as I do."
On Aug. 1, Lula hinted at establishing a constituent assembly during his second term, saying, "I’m quite fond of the idea. I have doubts that the National Congress can approve political reforms that meet the expectations of society." Alckmin disagreed with the president, declaring, "It does not make sense."
On Aug. 11, Lula acknowledged in a televised interview that he asked chief of staff Jose Dirceu and finance minister Antonio Palocci to tender their resignations, saying, "I asked Dirceu and Palocci, and other public servants, to step aside, and I will keep doing so. (…) This does not tarnish the image of the PT, but only the image of a few people."
On Aug. 14, the candidates participated in a televised debate. Lula was not present. Helena criticized the president, saying, "I cannot accept his arrogance, nor the fact that he think is he is better than the other candidates, which he is not. He fled the debate. He was scared to debate."
On Aug. 18, Alckmin criticized Lula’s relationship with other leftist South American administrations, saying, "Brazil should not become subject to the interests of others. My government will defend the interests of Brazil."
On Aug. 23, Buarque—a former PT member—expressed concerns over the possibility of a first round victory for Lula, declaring, "If he wins outright, he will be able to start governing beyond Congress, and dealing directly with the people. Lula could end up using his charisma, aided by a weak Congress, to rule by decree."
On Aug. 29, Alckmin presented a new set of television advertisements that question Lula’s commitment to legality. The spots claim that the government "has never taken so much money from the hands of Brazilians," and asks: "Have you stopped to think about the harm corruption does to the country?"
On Aug. 30, former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso criticized Lula, saying, "He has taken Brazil to its lowest ethical and moral level in history. (...) He has changed, and now is doing everything he fought against when he was a union leader."
On Aug. 31, Lula expressed confidence in his reform plans, saying, "I’m not sure if we will be able to achieve all that needs to be done, but it will not be due to lack of effort, commitment and loyalty to the principles that made us reach the presidency. If we can’t deliver, it will be because of extraterrestrial factors."
Also on Aug. 31, Helena presented a television spot, which questions why Lula is leading in the polls. Helena appears on the ad, saying, "I cannot believe that the honest Brazilian people would elect political bandits."
Polls conducted in late August by Ibope, Datafolha, Instituto Sensus, Vox Populi and Zogby International placed Lula as the frontrunner, with the support of at least 49 per cent of respondents.
On Sept. 6, Lula criticized the opposition, saying, "There are people who make a serious campaign, and there are others who choose to make a despicable campaign. (...) Democracy sometimes has these things that make us anxious, that make us angry, but we have to know how to face them."
On Sept. 7, Helena harshly criticized the president, saying, "Lula is a gangster who heads a criminal organization capable of stealing, killing, defaming and eliminating any person who threatens their project."
In August, Alckmin referred to the recent inclusion of Venezuela as a full member of the common trade block of southern South American countries known as Mercosur, saying, "No one doubts the importance of Venezuela, but we should verify several things. We defend a market-driven economy and now we have a president (Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez) who vows for a different type of economic model." Alckmin also said he was confident the presidential election would be defined in a run-off, declaring, "I have no doubt there will be a second round, and then candidate Lula won’t have the chance to run away."
On Sept. 8, former president and PSDB member Fernando Henrique Cardoso criticized his own party for "failing to be tough enough in denouncing the corruption" in Lula’s government, adding, "While we may not win, we have the moral duty to remain vigilant."
On Sept. 13, Alckmin, Helena and Buarque took part in a televised debate. Alckmin criticized Lula for failing to show up, saying, "It’s a pity that candidate Lula, who made enormous promises four years ago, most of which haven’t been fulfilled, and who had five cabinet members indicted or charged by police, didn’t come to the debate just so that he won’t have to explain these issues."
Polls conducted in September by Datafolha and Ibope suggested a first round victory for Lula.
On Sept. 15, lawyer Gedimar Passos was arrested in Sao Paulo in possession of $790,000 U.S. in cash. Passos, who works for Lula’s campaign, allegedly was going to use the money to acquire documents that would implicate two PSDB members—Alckmin and Serra—in a corruption case.
On Sept. 18, Lula discussed the situation, saying, "As president, I can do just one thing: order a full investigation to discover, regardless who may be hurt, all those who are involved."
On Sept. 21, Lula dismissed allegations that his party was involved in dirty campaign practices, saying, "Why would my campaign be interested in such business? I’m in a highly favourable position. It’s not part of my political past—and I’ve done four elections—to dig through people’s lives in order to campaign."
On Sept. 22, Lula said he was not concerned about recent criticism, declaring, "It’s the Brazilian people who will judge me. If the Brazilian people give us a second term, we will give the economy much more solidity and will make things work much better."
On Sept. 25, Helena challenged Lula to participate in the final televised debate, scheduled for Sept. 28, saying, "I hope that Lula comes down from his putrid throne of corruption, arrogance and cowardice. The president may look great in the campaign events, but he has not been willing to meet face to face with the other candidates."
Also on Sept. 25, Lula predicted a first round victory, saying, "If anyone thinks the election will reach the run-off, they will have to wait for 2010, because this election will be finalized on Sunday. I never said I would win on the first round out of modesty, out of respect, but I want you to know that we will win on Sunday."
On Sept. 27, arrest warrants were issued against six PT members in connection with the alleged plot to implicate two Alckmin and Serra in a corruption case. Buarque declared, "If the federal police does not clear this before these people can be captured, it will lose credibility and Brazilians will be left with the impression that it has been manipulated because of the election."
On Sept. 28, the campaign officially drew to a close. Lula declared, "Four years ago, we found a country in crisis that is very different now. If with problems and lack of experience we were able to do so much, think of what we’ll be able to accomplish now." Alckmin urged voters to support him, so he can "wipe out corruption" and deliver a government "with its feet on the ground, its eyes on the future and its heart on those who need the most."
Polls released in late September by Vox Populi, Datafolha, Instituto Sensus, Ibope and Zogby International suggested a first round victory for Lula.
Voting took place on Oct. 1. Incumbent president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of the Worker’s Party (PT) got 48.61 per cent of the vote, while PSDB candidate Geraldo Alckmin received 41.64 per cent. Since no contender garnered more than 50 per cent of all cast ballots, a run-off was scheduled for Oct. 29.
As he was voting early on Sunday near Sao Paulo, Lula declared, "The country has to continue growing. (...) The life of the people has to continue improving." After hearing the good news of his performance in the ballot, Alckmin said, "Brazil can be better. It can have an ethical government."
President: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT)
The president is elected by popular vote to a four-year term.
Legislative branch: The bicameral Congresso Nacional (National Congress) has two chambers. The Camara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies) has 513 members, elected to four-year terms by proportional representation. The Senado Federal (Federal Senate) has 81 members, elected to eight-year terms—with one third elected after a four-year period, and two thirds elected after the next four-year period.