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Da Silva Front Runner for Second Round of Brazilian Presidential Election - 2002-10-09

Brazil's two presidential candidates are seeking to build new alliances and increase their support as they prepare to face each other in a runoff election later this month. The candidate of the left is favored to win but his centrist opponent still has a chance to emerge victorious.

Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva of the leftist Workers' Party, won 46 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election, his highest percentage ever since making his first of four runs for the Presidency in 1989. Thirty-nine-point-three-million Brazilians voted for the burly former union leader known to all as "Lula." But it was not enough to put him over the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a second round.

The candidate Mr. da Silva will face on October 27 is former health minister, Jose Serra. Mr. Serra, of the governing Social Democratic Party, received the support of 19.6 million Brazilians, or 23 percent of the vote.

The rest of the electorate divided their votes between two other opposition candidates, Anthony Garotinho and Ciro Gomes, both on the left. Mr. da Silva and his Workers' Party now hope to capture the support of all those who voted, in effect, for the opposition.

That amounts to about 76 percent of the electorate. But some analysts warn that all these votes may not necessarily go to the Workers' Party candidate in a second round.

Analyst Luis Pedone says many of the supporters of the defeated opposition candidates wanted an alternative to Mr. da Silva. Mr. Pedone, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia, says this is especially true of those who supported Ciro Gomes, who at one point in the campaign was running a strong second behind Mr. da Silva.

"I think it's a mistake believing that 76 percent of the electorate voted against the government, and automatically is going to be with Lula in the second round," he explained. "We'll probably have the personal support of Ciro [Gomes] and [Anthony] Garotinho going to Lula, probably. But if you take a look at the voters of Ciro when he had 27 percent, they were what? They were anti-Lula. They found an anti-Lula, so they were voting anti-Lula. Are they going to vote for Lula now? That's a question mark."

Mr. Gomez of the workers front party, Tuesday, declared his support for Mr. da Silva. He made it clear he would work in any capacity for the election of Lula.

Some who voted Sunday for candidate Garotinho, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, say they will never vote for Lula. Seamstress Vilma Neves Barros, who lives in a drug-ridden slum in Rio, says she thinks Mr. da Silva is not prepared to be president.

"How can Lula govern the country," she asks, "if he never started from the bottom in politics? I'll vote for Serra in the second round because Lula has never run anything."

This was one of the themes of Mr. Serra's negative campaign ads against the former union leader. The commercial portrayed Mr. da Silva as unprepared, and stressed his lack of a university degree.

In contrast, the commercial pointed to Mr. Serra's educational qualifications, and his experience as a lawmaker and minister of two different portfolios in the current government of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Political analyst David Fleischer expects a very negative campaign in the second round, especially as Mr. Serra hopes to gain ground. Despite Mr. da Silva's lead, Mr. Fleischer says anything can happen.

"The second round is like a doubleheader baseball game, sometimes the team that wins in the afternoon comes back and loses in the evening game," he said. "A second round in Brazil is a totally different ball game, with different strategies, different campaigning, a new realignment of leaderships supporting each of the two candidates in the second round. Serra would have a chance of turning the second round over and winning the second round."

However, this remains to be seen. Surveys during the first round showed Mr. Serra's negative campaign ads against Lula backfired and caused the centrist candidate to lose support. Mr. da Silva, by contrast, carried out a positive campaign, a campaign of "Peace and Love" as described by the Brazilian press. He promises to do the same this time.

Also in his favor is the widespread dissatisfaction with the state of the economy, and the economic policies of the Cardoso government.

Even though Mr. da Silva did not win an absolute majority, his Workers' Party now has the majority of seats in the lower House of Congress following Sunday's vote. The party grew from 58 seats to 92, and almost doubled its representation in the Senate from eight to 14.

By contrast, Mr. Serra's governing party lost big, down from 94 seats in the lower house to 75. Other parties in the governing coalition also lost seats.

All this would seem to indicate that Mr. Serra and his party have a long, uphill fight to win the presidency. For Lula, the second round is his to lose.