In Brazil, where voting is mandatory, close to 130 million Brazilians are going this Sunday, October 5, to the polls to elect mayors and city councils in more than 5,500 municipalities. It will be the last significant electoral test in South America's largest country before the presidential elections in 2010.
Candidates from the ruling Workers Party, PT, from President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and 13 allied parties are expected to win in the country's main urban centers. Among the 79 largest cities, 13 are ruled by the PT and in 33 they are ahead in public opinion polls, according to Rio's daily O Globo.
Center party Brazilian Democratic Movement, PMDB, belonging to the coalition is expected to win in 22 of the 79 cities while the opposition Social Democrats, PSDB is expected to take 20.
Lula, who after five years in government enjoys an approval rating close to 80%, is the main driving force for the ruling coalition and its candidates.
A total of 128 million Brazilians are registered to vote for mayors in 5.563 cities and towns and 52.137 city councilors. For urban centers with more than 200.000 people a run off is scheduled for October 26 if there's not a 50% plus one vote in the voting.
"It is very possible that the PT ends controlling 600 mayors in tomorrow's election, up from 411 in the 2004," said David Fleischer, aÂ Political Science professor.
All along the country most candidates have campaigned associating their image to that of President Lula and the opposition has abstained from criticizing him. However the president has been reluctant to get involved in the campaign, the exception being the biggest prize of all: the city of São Paulo.
Former mayor Marta Suplicy seems en route to victory, benefited by campaigning from Lula and because the opposition is divided with two candidates.
In Rio de Janeiro the PMDB with Eduardo Paes as candidate seems poised to win most votes, leading comfortably in the opinion polls. But this shouldn't be enough to avoid a second round match with Fernando Gabeira from the Green Party (PV) or Marcelo Crivella from the PRB. Polls show both tied in second place.
Anyhow Sunday's outcome will give an idea of possible candidates for the presidential race of 2010. Interestingly enough Lula has said he has the right to pick his successor and eyes seem set on cabinet chief Dilma Rousseff, but if Suplicy takes São Paulo she is also expected to throw her hat in the ring.
João Paulo Peixoto, Professor of Government at the University of Brasília said that the result will give us a new electoral map of the country regarding 2010. Sao Paulo will be especially important for that matter."