Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva launched his runoff presidential campaign leading his opponent Geraldo Alckmin by eight points according to the latest public opinion polls released Saturday
According to Saturday’s DataFolha, Lula’s support stands at 54% of valid votes and Alckmin’s at 46%. In last Sunday’s first round Lula’s re-election bid garnered 48.6% of the vote and his opponent 41.6%, so this could mean the other candidates support split equally among the two runoff contenders.
However DataFolha points out that the appraisal of his government’s performance as excellent or good actually increased two points to 49%. Another 33% describes it as average, and 17% bad or negative.
This follows Lula’s Workers Party decision to sack four close associates, including the president of the party Ricardo Berzoini who were allegedly involved in an attempt to buy information exposing opposition Social Democrat candidates.
The four discharged are a former police officer in charge of the campaign’s intelligence gathering, a former private secretary of Lula, a member of the board of the government owned Bank of Brazil and a grass-root leader.
The alleged dossier with sensitive information on opposition candidates and which was to be bought for US$ 800,000 proved to be a counterfeit collection of pictures and press cuttings.
President Lula called the four involved a "gang of nuts," but where the money came from is still unaccounted for and the investigation has not revealed its origin.
President Lula and former São Paulo governor Alckmin had their first television debate Sunday evening and the theme of corruption was brought back by Alckmin to the discussion many times during the encounter.
On the trail in northeast Brazil, which is solid Lula turf he had challenged that "if they want to discuss ethics or corruption, we will, because opposition parties have no moral to teach ethics".
In more direct terms he told his audience that when contender Alckmin with his "doctoral speech" talks about cutting "current expenditure", he means "firing government employees and lowering salaries, that’s what he really means".
Another interesting move in the Brazilian political scenario was the announcement by the PMDB, a federation of regional parties, which has a strong representation in Congress but is divided internally because of differing interests, to let the electorate free to vote whoever candidate they wished.
Actually the PMDB is split internally among those sectors which have joined the ruling Workers Party coalition in exchange for government posts or public works investments and those that have been left out or could not agree on terms.
This generally means a zero sum equation which forces both candidates to woo leader by leader in each state and city, one of Brazilian politics worst sides.
Former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and leader of Alckmin’s Social Democrats forecasted that the final result will much depend on the television debates.
"Alckmin is currently on the crest of the wave, if opinion polls confirm it and he’s successful in the debates, he will become Brazil’s next president. The tide now is against Lula because he suffered greatly with the corruption scandals involving his close aides and advisors," said Cardoso.
The former president who was re-elected and ruled for eight years also underlined that Lula and his party are "obsessed with my administration and are adopting childish attitudes".
"They live looking into the past and making up statistics to try and show they did things better than we did. But the fact is that the Lula administration had no initiatives, they simply managed what we left on course in spite of the fact my government had to face four major international financial crises. They have been lucky, they faced no financial turmoil."
However Cardoso admitted that president Lula has charisma and did a lot for the poor in Brazil. "When he was a union leader he talked about progress and development, now he only talks about the poor and the under classes and has forgotten to modernize Brazil."
Cardoso claims Lula has allowed his administration to be co-opted by some of Brazilian politics most deplorable practices: cronyism, handouts and votes in exchange for favors."