José Serra, Brazil’s main opposition leader and governor of the country’s biggest state of São Paulo, said Friday for the first time publicly that he will be a presidential candidate in this year’s elections.
In an interview with the Bandeirantes television network, Serra who belongs to the Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) said he will formally announce his presidential candidacy at the beginning of next month. “It is set for early April,” Serra revealed.
Leaders of the opposition PSDB have already cleared the path for Serra. There are no other declared candidates for the party’s nomination, which is likely to be handed to Serra by acclamation at a party convention in June.
Serra said he will resign as São Paulo governor on April 3. Under Brazilian law, Serra must relinquish the post by that date in order to run in the October elections.
Serra will face off against Dilma Rousseff, cabinet chief of Brazil’s popular President Lula da Silva. Rousseff will also resign her post on April 3. The ruling Workers’ Party has already endorsed Rousseff as its presidential candidate and if elected, she would be Brazil’s first woman president.
A poll released earlier this week by the Public Opinion Research Institute showed Serra with a modest lead over Rousseff, polling 35% to 30%. But Serra’s total shrank from a similar poll in December, when he garnered 38% of voter intentions against only 17% for Rousseff.
“For now, my name appears first, but it’s only a poll, a snapshot of the moment,” Serra told a Bandeirantes TV interviewer. “Brazilians will only start focusing on the election after the World Soccer Cup is over”.
However political analysts point to the fact that Lula da Silva’s strong support and campaigning in favor of Ms Rousseff plus a robust economy can turn the dispute in an increasing up-road for the Sao Paulo governor.
“What can you say about a robust and expanding economy and a president with such a positive support rating? asked political analyst Bolivar Lamounier from São Paulo.
Serra has a long public career and is well known in Brazil and has a reputation of a capable and efficient manager. He was a very effective Health minister under President Fernando Cardoso and lost to Lula in the 2002 run off.
Furthermore Rousseff in a few weeks has climbed dramatically in opinion polls taking votes from two other left wing candidates, Ciro Gomes and a former Environment minister Marina Silva, who figure third and fourth in overall vote intention.
Analysts point to the fact that Ms Rousseff has the greatest growth potential since a majority of the 135 million Brazilians registered to vote don’t know her but have stated they will follow whoever Lula indicates.
Over half of the interviews in the latest Ibope poll stated they would vote for Lula’s candidate. Lula has an incredible 83% approval, which is astonishing in world politics, since he is the last months of his second mandate. Brazilian presidents can only be re-elected for two four-year periods. Even though Lula may run once again for president in four years.