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Brazzil - Politics - August 2004

PSDB, Brazil's Comeback Party

With municipal elections getting near, Brazil's PSDB party is
showing great potential in several state capital mayor races
throughout the country. In Brazil's largest city, São Paulo, the PSDB
candidate José Serra is tied for first place against Marta Suplicy
from the PT. In a run-off election Serra should be the winner.

Daniel Torres

José Serra

Picture After the 2002 presidential campaign, the PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira—Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy) to which belongs former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, seemed weakened.

José Serra, the PSDB presidential nominee lost in a crushing defeat to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's current president. Serra was unable to form an official alliance with the right-wing PFL and his campaign never gained momentum.

The strongest rival to the PSDB, the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores—Workers' Party), not only gained the presidency but also the largest block in the Congress, holding 91 seats.

It seemed that Brazilians rejected the PSDB party platform in favor of the more left-leaning PT party. But if the 2004 municipal elections say anything about Brazil's future it is that the tucanos (toucans, the way PSDB members are called) are trying to make a comeback in the political arena.

The PSDB is showing great potential in several state capital mayor races throughout Brazil. In Teresina (Piauí state), Cuiabá (Mato Grosso), Fortaleza (Ceará), Natal (Rio Grande do Norte), Vitória (Espírito Santo), Curitiba (Paraná) and Florianópolis (Santa Catarina) the PSDB candidate is statistically tied for first place or is in first place.

In São Luís (Maranhão), the PSDB candidate is in second place, in a multi-candidate race. Also in Brazil's largest city, São Paulo, the PSDB candidate José Serra, he who lost the 2002 presidential elections, is tied for first place against Marta Suplicy from the PT.

But in a highly expected run-off race between both candidates it is believed that José Serra will win with recent polls showing a 52-40% victory margin. The PSDB faces its strongest competition from the well organized PT party.

These early election polls might just be a reward for the PSDB's administrative abilities or there might be a changing political tide in favor of the PSDB party.

The increased rivalry among the PSDB and the PT seems to be only heating up for the 2006 presidential and gubernatorial elections.

In 2002, while losing the presidency, the PSDB won seven governorships. In December 2003, Geraldo Alckmin from São Paulo and Aécio Neves from Minas Gerais received the second and third best job approval ratings of current governors in Brazil.

Last week, Aécio Neves traveled to Rio de Janeiro to meet with César Maia from the PFL. Maia is the current mayor of Rio and is running for re-election.

At a meeting César Maia lauded Aécio Neves saying that he would be a "Carioca president" if Aécio Neves ever decided to run for President. Aécio Neves said nothing about a possible presidential bid in the future.

But this seems unlikely considering that the Geraldo Alckmin will be unable to run for re-election as governor of Sao Paulo in 2006 making it more likely that he will the presidential nominee from the PSDB.

Alckmin is also benefited by being a popular governor from a state that is a bastion for the PSDB rank and file. Under this scenario, Aécio Neves would run for re-election as governor of Minas Gerais and forget for now his presidential ambitions.

Or Aécio Neves may try to capture the PSDB nomination in 2006 to face a Lula re-election campaign. If Neves decides to run in 2010 he would benefit from running against a new PT candidate. Either way, the prospects for a PSDB presidency in the future are quite bright.

Daniel Torres was born in Brazil and studies economics and political science at the University of Massachusetts. You can write him at dftbrumass99@yahoo.com.

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