Can’t Lula’s PT and Cardoso’s PSDB Just Get Along?

The former and present President of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da SilvaIn 1994, Brazilian voters expressed their desire for change in the country when they elected Fernando Henrique Cardoso. He was an intellectual from the Left, backed by a Left party, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which was created by those who did not believe the old Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) had been transformed.

It is surprising that the great adversary of the Fernando Henrique government has been the Workers Party (PT). And that its base of support has been the PMDB and other conservative parties.

In 2002, Brazilian voters demonstrated that they wanted to move forward with these changes. Fearlessly, they elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a working class leader at the front of a progressive party with a history of authenticity, a style coming from political experience, and social commitments and objectives.

It is surprising that the major adversary of the Lula government is the PSDB. And that the same conservative parties that supported the Fernando Henrique government serve as its base of support.

Given that both the PT and the PSDB are committed to modernity, innovation, the end of self-serving politics, the practice of a different sort of politics, employing social changes and rescuing the great part of Brazilian dreams, it is surprising that these two presidents and their parties are fighting.

They are fighting like enemies. This obliged Fernando Henrique to seek the support of the most engrained in Brazilian politics, and today it obliges Lula to repeat the same process as the previous government.

In order to confront one another, these two parties are forming alliances with their opposition in both ideology and political style. This is unjustifiable.

But the unjustifiable has an explanation: No matter how close they may be in terms of national proposals and origins, the PT and the PSDB are absolutely distant, they are visceral enemies from the electoral point of view, due to the fact that they are both parties from São Paulo State.

It is not their programs, their concepts, their proposals or their priorities that separate the PT and the PSDB. What separates them is the fact that they compete for votes in the same electoral region.

The leaders of each party are competing for the same voters in the state of São Paulo, sometimes within their own party. And that is holding Brazil hostage.

The voters of a single state take prisoner the two parties representing innovation in the country. This makes unviable an alliance for all Brazil.

What remain are strange alliances instead of a single progressive one that could inaugurate a new cycle in Brazilian politics.

One way to put an end to that process is to start a PT-PSDB alliance outside of São Paulo, the state where the personal interests that characterize politics still make this impossible.

Brazilian politics are filtered through and fettered by São Paulo. Without São Paulo, politics cannot be practiced or changed in Brazil.

If the great national leaderships of the two parties in the other states could succeed in conversing, perhaps it would be possible to bring together the PT and PSDB residents of São Paulo.

And perhaps the interests of the future of Brazil could take precedence over the immediate, electoral interests of each of these two parties.

Cristovam Buarque has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04). You can visit his homepage – www.cristovam.com.br – and write to him at cristovam@senador.gov-br.

Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.

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