The presidential campaign for the October election in Brazil hasn’t started and by law shouldn’t start before April, but Brazilian presidential hopefuls – they call themselves pre candidates to avoid problems with the law – took to the streets to join the country’s Carnaval celebrations considered a great opportunity to have their names and faces known.
The two main potential contenders, Lula’s cabinet chief Dilma Rousseff and the opposition’s José Serra coincided in some of the cities famous for the several-days long colorful parades, samba competition, dancing and partying.
Rousseff, handpicked by Lula to succeed him, visited Carnaval festivities in Recife, Pernambuco, Salvador and Bahia, where coincidently the governor of Sao Paulo was also present but certainly without the following of the ruling party candidate, i.e., pre-candidate. In Rio, Rousseff took the broom of a street sweeper and sambaed with him on the street.
Although relatively unknown Rousseff is riding on the Lula’s roller-coaster, with a 82% popularity and all these cities, with the exception of Rio, belong to the Northeast of the Brazilian continent, where the president was born (Pernambuco) and people are very proud of their prodigious son.
“I’m not on the campaign trail. I came to enjoy, I’m very happy to be here and I’m not afraid of mingling with the people”, said Governor Serra who while in Recife was exposed to a chorus of “Dilma! Dilma!”, from the different groups on parade.
Rousseff, who has never run for office before but counts with the full support from Lula chose her as the ruling Workers party candidate also denied having a Carnaval electoral agenda.
“Carnaval is part of the Brazilian agenda; we all have a right to enjoy it,” said the chief cabinet minister who this month is expected to be officially nominated at the congress of the party founded by Lula.
In Recife both candidates came across another hopeful, Ciro Gomes, whose Brazilian Socialist party is part of the ruling coalition. Gomes, however, insists in running as a center left candidate.
Gomes took the opportunity to attack Serra accusing him of representing Brazil’s elites and those from São Paulo in particular.
“It’s good for him to come to the Northeast so he can see the real country, at least once in his lifetime. It’s easier for a cow to fly than to have Serra identified with the Northeast of Brazil”, underlined Gomes.
Actually in spite of all the display none of the two hopefuls have so far been officially nominated or confirmed by their respective parties.
But the latest public opinion polls from Sensus show Ms. Rousseff cutting the ten point difference to half: Serra now has 32% vote preference and the incumbent 27%.
Cabinet chief Rousseff has been named to head an ambitious mega-plan of public works and infrastructure, which in five years time should have Brazil “as the world’s fifth strongest economy.”
Lula da Silva has promised he will actively campaign next to Dilma until June, when she will have to resign to her post if she effectively becomes the ruling party’s candidate.
On the Serra side, the governor is involved in “positive campaigning” mostly exposure at national level while former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso is in charge of the heavy flak and barrage against Lula’s “coarse authoritarianism” and Dilma’s complete lack of political experience and charisma, “a mere bureaucrat”.
In related news Lula da Silva masks are breaking sales record in this year’s Carnaval according to local vendors. In Rio only during the first two days over 15.000 Lula da Silva’s masks were sold only second to late Michael Jackson’s.