This weekend, the Great Transformation project takes off when the Brazilian ruling party of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be nominating his handpicked candidate for the October presidential election, none else than the president’s chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, 62.
The Workers Party (PT) 1.350 delegates are holding its fourth congress, which started Thursday and will be debating the campaign strategy and the program for the next government, which should be a continuity of the path drawn by Lula and his “very successful inclusive social policies”.
The Great Transformation summarizes all the plans for a future administration of the possibly first woman president of Brazil if Ms Rousseff is effectively supported by the Brazilian electorate on the suggestion of the country’s most popular leader in recent history.
The PT congress will also have to decide on alliance policies with other political groups to ensure a working majority in Congress for the candidate Rousseff, who in the last two weeks, has climbed ten points in the public opinion polls and is closing in on the main rival, São Paulo governor José Serra, from the Brazilian Social Democratic party, another formidable political force.
Lula’s strategy is based on an alliance with the conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement party, PMDB, with a majority in both congressional houses and a political organization that covers all the vast Brazilian territory.
But the PMDB in the Senate is headed by former president José Sarney who faces several serious corruption charges.
Furthermore Ms Rousseff an active guerrilla member from the seventies, tortured and jailed by the military dictatorship, only joined the Workers Party in 2001. She also has no electoral experience, since she never ran for office.
However the PT leadership is confident they can impose the candidate with their 1.3 million militants on the political beat and the strong boost she has experienced in opinion polls. Besides, the opposition had to reel back following several corruption scandals involving elected members caught on video taking bribes.
But it will be Lula da Silva’s impressive political capital, 82% popularity, that will gain or lose the day come October 3.
The president picked Rousseff as his successor back in 2007 on launching the US$ 250 billion PAC, Accelerated Growth Program, an ambitious project to invest in Brazil’s lacking infrastructure if the country is to be among the five leading economies of the world in the next five to ten years as Lula da Silva has repeatedly promised.
Lula da Silva at the time baptized Dilma as “PAC’s godmother”. The opposition prefers to call her Lula da Silva’s “latest puppet”.
She joined the Brazilian cabinet in 2005 and was head of the Political Coordination ministry following the ousting of José Dirceu, until then the strongest man in Lula’s close entourage.
Dirceu, at the time tipped as Lula’s successor had to resign following the “mensalão” scandal, which was a system of monthly payments to congress members to ensure the ruling party a working majority and the approval of its legislative agenda.
Dirceu and the whole Workers Party’s leadership were forced to resign because of their links with the institutionalized bribing racket.
The Dilma-Lula ticket won’t have an easy ride. Lula recently suffered a peak of high blood pressure, apparently because of his heavy agenda to promote the non charismatic Dilma.
The PT has two rivals to its left that could suck votes: Ciro Gomes who has an echo among left wing voters disenchanted with orthodox economics, and Maria Silva, an environmentalist who left the cabinet and the PT for lack of support for Amazon protection measures, an increasingly sensitive issue for urban residents.
Finally there’s an itching feeling in the Brazilian business community about “The Great Transformation” rhetoric and apparently Ms Rousseff is not that happy with free market oriented policies and would like the state to play a greater role in the economy.
“Now she’s on her own: Dilma’s time to play has come, I will sit in the back benches”, commented the “world’s most popular politician” as President Obama described his Brazilian peer.
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