Brazil’s Lula (Barely) Makes His Own Party’s New President

Brazil’s scandal-plagued ruling Workers Party, PT, finally elected a former Cabinet minister and close ally of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as its new chairman.

Ricardo Berzoini the candidate of Lula’s "Majority Camp", and former minister of Labor and Social Security just managed to prevail in last weekend’s tight runoff for the party’s leadership, the results of which were announced late Tuesday following a vote per vote count.

Out of 825,000 party membership eligible to vote only 230,000 actually cast ballots. Most political observers attribute the low participation to the extended disenchantment among rank and file after months of corruption allegations that show no sign of abating.

The party’s former leadership – forced to resign by the scandal – admitted to maintaining an illegal slush-fund of millions of US dollars to finance election campaigns, and stands accused of using some of that money to ensure Congressional support for President Lula da Silva’s legislative agenda.

The Workers Party founded by then metal industry union leader Lula and others 25 years ago started as an overtly Trotskyite party opposing the Brazilian military regime, which lasted from 1964 to 1985. However in the last decade it has steadily moved to the center right at the urging of Lula and his chief strategist, José Dirceu.

Having boasted for years of being a beacon of probity in Brazil’s notoriously corrupt political system, the PT now faces the daunting task of salvaging a public image battered by reiterated claims of graft, hush funds and illegal activities.

The extent of disillusionment inside the party was shown by Berzoini’s main rival for the party leadership, historian Raul Pont, representing the Socialist Democracy faction within the PT which forced a runoff and managed 48% of the vote.

Mr. Pont campaigned arguing the Workers Party had to return to its roots and needed drastic changes to eliminate all corruption practices.

This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.

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