Brazilian President Improves His Chances of Reelection

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva maintains an edge over his rivals in the first round in the Brazilian presidential elections, which occur in October of this year. 

A poll released Thursday, January 19, by the research organization Ibope shows a first round scenario in which Lula receives 35% of the support of potential voters, while his main rival, São Paulo mayor José Serra, appears in second with 31%. 

In this same scenario, the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Anthony Garotinho, comes in third with 12% of the votes, and the far left candidate, Senator Heloí­sa Helena, arrives in fourth with 5%. As the poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points, Lula and Serra are essentially tied. 

This result represents a recovery for the president, as a poll released in mid December showed Serra leading Lula in the first round by six percentage points, 37% to 31%.

The poll also considers several other scenarios for the first round voting. When Serra is substituted for other candidates from the main opposition party, The PSDB (The Brazilian Socialist Democratic Party), Lula’s lead increases. 

Against Geraldo Alckmin, the Governor of São Paulo, Lula is ahead 38% to 17%, versus former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula maintains a fourteen-point lead, 38% to 14%, and Lula’s lead increases further still against the Governor of Minas Gerais, Aécio Neves, as Lula receives 39% versus 9% for Neves. 

In Brazilian presidential elections, if no candidate receives a majority in the first round, the two leading candidates face off in a decisive run-off, and the Ibope poll did not consider scenarios for a second round match-up.

Therefore, while Lula is currently leading Serra by four percentage points in the first round scenario, the president’s advantage would likely diminish in the second round stage, as both candidates would have to compete for the seventeen percent of voters that selected either Garotinho or Heloí­sa.

Neither Lula nor Serra has officially declared his candidacy. Political analysts and party insiders, however, believe that both candidates are certain to run and are simply waiting for the most opportune moment to enter the race. 

Lula’s political party, the PT, or Worker’s Party, has been immersed in a corruption scandal for most of the last year, with accusations of vote buying and violations of campaign finance law forcing the resignation of the party leadership, and Lula’s Chief of Staff, José Dirceu.

The scandal has yet to directly implicate the President, and he has declared his innocence. Congressional hearings and investigations are still on going.

Jared Goyette scrapes by as a freelance writer in Salvador, Bahia Brazil. He can be reached at jaredmgo [at] gmail [dot] com.

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