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Brazilian Court Upholds Uniform Coalition Decision - 2002-04-20


Brazil's Supreme Court has upheld a decision by the country's electoral tribunal that forces political parties to maintain uniform coalitions at both the national and state levels in elections later this year. The decision to maintain these "symmetrical coalitions" is expected to boost the prospects of the government party's presidential candidate.

By a vote of 7-4, Brazil's supreme court has decided not to hear any of the motions against the electoral tribunal's February decision mandating symmetrical coalitions. Unless Congress passes a new law, political party coalitions will have to be the same at both the state and national levels in next October's elections. The aim is to provide uniformity to prevent voter confusion. Brazil, which is governed by a coalition of several parties, has over a dozen national political parties. But at the state level, these parties often have a different composition and enter into different coalitions than on the national level.

Analysts say having symmetrical coalitions at the state and national levels will have an impact on the Presidential race. Analyst David Fleischer sees the move as boosting the chances of the government's presidential candidate, Jose Serra. "Many people think that Jose Serra, the official candidate of the government, will be favored in his coalition between his party, the PSDB the Social Democratic Party and the PMDB, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party," said Mr. Fleischer. "This will apparently favor Serra in the majority of the states. However, there are eight or ten states where this marriage will be very difficult because the two parties are enemies and have been fighting each other in elections [in these states] over the last ten years."

Mr. Serra faces other difficulties as well. The latest public opinion surveys show his chief rival, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva of the leftist Workers Party, or PT, with a 17-point lead over Mr. Serra. The same survey also showed Mr. Serra with higher negative ratings than Mr. da Silva.

Analyst Fleischer, who teaches at the University of Brasilia, says Mr. Serra needs to gain more support or face losing his party's nomination. "Now, Serra's rejection rate is higher than that of Lula's, which is a big change," he went on to say. "So that in the polls, Serra has a lot of catching up to do in the next few weeks. There is, around the corner, looming what is called "Plan B" which is if Serra stumbles, spins his wheels, or falls back, the PSDB may dump him as a candidate and choose another candidate within the PSDB."

There are several other contenders seeking the presidency, including an evangelical former governor, Anthony Garotinho. But they are expected to be hurt by the Supreme Court's decision maintaining the electoral tribunal's order that mandates symmetrical coalitions. Mr. Garotinho expressed regret over the decision, but vowed to stay in the race.

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