The Fear of Being First


The Fear of Being First

By making Lula look like someone who could win, the PFL
hopes to scare the main government
parties into getting rid of its
current presidential candidate and choosing one more to its liking.
By
John Fitzpatrick

There’s something rather odd about the latest opinion poll, which gives the left-wing PT candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula
da Silva, a commanding lead over rivals José Serra and Anthony Garotinho, who have both lost support.

First of all, the poll was carried out for the center-right PFL party, whose national leader, Senator Jorge Bornhausen,
lost no time in warning that economic turbulence could follow a PT victory. Secondly, Garotinho, the former Rio de Janeiro
state governor, claimed that the GPP Institute which carried out the poll was linked to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Cesar Maia,
who is a PFL member. Thirdly, instead of rejoicing, Lula made no immediate comment and even during Wednesday’s May
Day celebrations kept quiet.

Instead, a leading PT member, José Dirceu, accused Bornhausen of irresponsibility. He claimed that those who
supported the idea that a PT victory would lead to an economic crisis were blackmailing Brazil. The PT is now realizing that Lula is
finally shaping up as a possible winner and the party is nervous that any wrong move or complacency could set it back.

To its annoyance, four foreign financial institutions—Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, ABN Amro and
Santander—early May recommended investors to reduce their Brazilian holdings, partly on the PT’s rising chances of success in October.
This spooked São Paulo’s Bovespa stock market, which fell over 4 percent on the news while the dollar rose by almost 1.5
percent against the Real and the Brazil country risk also increased.

In response to the Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch reports, PT members in Congress prepared a motion
repudiating "the unwarranted interference by American investment banks and foreign brokerage houses in the electoral process."

Lula could also not resist the temptation to criticize the "gringos." (Imagine the uproar there would be if an
American presidential politician referred to Latin Americans as "spics". However, this is a cross we resident "gringos" must bear
with good humor in politically incorrect Brazil.)

Why should the PFL, which does not even have a potential presidential candidate, be publicizing the findings of its
surveys? Political parties generally keep these results to themselves. The answer is that the PFL fancies itself as a kingmaker and
wants a greater say in who will be the official government candidate. Since the party’s own choice, Roseana Sarney, withdrew
in the midst of a financial scandal, the party has had no candidate and does not look as if it will propose anyone.

By making Lula look like someone who could win, perhaps even in the first round, the PFL hopes to scare the main
government parties—the PSDB of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the PMDB—into getting rid of its current presidential
hopeful, José Serra, and choosing a candidate more to its liking.

Bornhausen was due to meet Cardoso to discuss the poll findings. He has extra ammunition in the form of an internal
survey, which shows that 87 percent of the PFL’s 118 Congressmen would accept a PSDB candidate providing it was not Serra.

The PFL hates Serra because they believe he or his allies were behind the police raid on a company jointly owned by
Roseana Sarney and her husband, which unearthed 1.3 million
reais ($515.000) in cash. Sarney and her husband are now facing a
police investigation and due to appear in court in connection with the affair.

In response to the raid, the PFL pulled out of the government and since then it has been squirming to get back
inside. One recalls the American secretary of state Dean Acheson’s famous comment that: "Great Britain has lost an empire and
has not yet found a role."

The PFL also does not like Serra because he is close to the PMDB and even invited one of its members, Pernambuco
state governor Jarbas Vasconcelos, to be his running mate. Vasconcelos turned the offer down and Serra has been looking
around for a possible candidate.

During Cardoso’s two terms, his vice president has been Marco Maciel of the PFL and the party has got used to
having its representative at high level.

Whether the PFL will succeed with its tactics is not known, but it is certainly showing steel. Its plans may even be
working because there is now a wing of the PSDB, which thinks Serra should consider nominating a PFL representative as his vice.

Finally, one cannot claim that the PFL massaged the figures in the latest poll but paradoxically the excellent
performance of its ideological opponent Lula must have gladdened its heart.

For the record, the findings were as follows:

Lula—38.7 percent (compared with 37.9 percent in the CNT/Census and 34 percent in the previous GPP poll)

Serra—14.5 percent (compared with 16.1 percent in CNT/Census and 17.6 percent in the previous GPP poll)

Garotinho—13.9 percent (compared with 15.2 percent in CNT/Census and 16.2 percent in the previous GPP poll)

Ciro Gomes—13.8 percent (compared with 10.5 percent in the CNT/Census and 13.9 percent in the previous GPP poll).

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He
writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações, which specializes in editorial and translation
services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at
jf@celt.com.br

This article was originally published by E-zine
Infobrazil – www.infobrazil.com

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