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Viewing cable 09BRASILIA905, Brazil's 2010 Presidential Election: Early Snapshot

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BRASILIA905 2009-07-20 19:07 2010-12-10 09:09 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Brasilia
VZCZCXRO1809
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #0905/01 2011915
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201915Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4729
INFO RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 9756
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 4326
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8008
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 6288
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 7794
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 7588
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0993
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 0522
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 4410
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 6928
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BRASILIA 000905 

SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV BR
SUBJECT: Brazil's 2010 Presidential Election: Early Snapshot 

REFS: SAO PAULO 273, SAO PAULO 90, BRASILIA 791, BRASILIA 799 

1. (SBU) Summary. The 2010 presidential election in Brazil, fifteen months out, currently looks like a two person contest between Minister Dilma Rousseff and Sao Paulo Governor Jose Serra. Although Serra maintains his lead in the polls, Rousseff's steady rise in public opinion has some analysts already labeling her the favorite. Without either having clear frontrunner status established and few evident policy differences between these two mainstream leftist candidates, they will try to persuade low income voters of their firmer commitment to ongoing social programs, and middle and upper income voters of their greater managerial competence. Analysts say both major parties--Rousseff's Workers' Party (PT) and Serra's Social Democrats (PSDB)--will try to win massively in their regional strongholds and reduce their opponent's edge as much as possible where they do not expect to win. The non-ideological Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) could play a decisive role and both leading parties would like to form an alliance with it. A steady stream of political scandals and the accompanying revelations could change the landscape suddenly and surprisingly. Despite the unpredictability that is typical of Brazilian politics, institutional stability is as great as it has ever been in the post-military dictatorship period. End summary. 

Two Person Race 

2. (SBU) The October 2010 presidential election in Brazil, fifteen months out, looks like a two person contest between Dilma Rousseff (PT), Minister-chief of the Civilian Household, and Jose Serra (PSDB), governor of the state of Sao Paulo. Rousseff, President Lula's handpicked choice to succeed him, is the president's top domestic policy adviser, whom he has given a lead role and high visibility in the execution of the Accelerated Growth Program (PAC), a massive public works program. Serra, a former minister of health and planning under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula's predecessor, is governor of Brazil's most economically important state, and its most populous one (refs A and B). Serra: Slow and Steady... Serra maintains the overall lead in early polling, with numbers remaining in the range of 40 percent. In keeping with his administrative style (Sao Paulo septel) Serra is keeping a low profile at the moment as he carefully lines up federal monies for a stream of PAC-like projects to announce at the state level when the national campaign accelerates. Dilma on the Rise 

3. (SBU) The story of recent months is Dilma Rousseff's rise in the polls, from single digits late last year to mid-teens earlier this year to as high as 24 percent in May (depending on which candidates are included in the poll). Her rise is the result of her heightened public visibility in PAC events, Lula's declared support, and her apparently rapid recovery from lymphatic cancer. PATRI's Miranda said that the public perception that she has quickly defeated cancer plays strongly in her favor. While Miranda and some PT officials such as Luis Marinho believe that, if by March 2010 she is tied with Serra in the polls, he could yield his PSDB candidacy to Minas Gerais Governor Aecio Neves, other observers such Serra colleague and former Central Banker Luiz Fernando Figueiredo downplayed the influence of polling on Serra's plans. As long as Rousseff continues to look like a fighter who conquered cancer, her presidential chances will improve. If her cancer recurs and makes her candidacy impossible, the PT has no alternative of her stature, although former Finance Minister Antonio Palocci and Presidential Chief of Staff Gilberto Carvalho are sometimes named as possible candidates (ref C). 

4. (SBU) The relatively minor effect of the global financial crisis in Brazil helps Rousseff as a member of the incumbent party.. Developments in the ongoing scandal involving Senate President Jose Sarney (septel) could play in Rousseff's favor as well. Thanks to President Lula's intervention with PT senators, Sarney's chances of retaining the Senate presidency are improved-- meaning the PT is better positioned to demand stronger concrete support for Rousseff's candidacy from the PMDB in the general election. Several "Also-Rans" 

5. (SBU) Aside from Rousseff and Serra, other candidates are unlikely to gain sufficient support to make it a three- or four-person race. Prospects for a run by the young, charismatic governor of Minas Gerais state, Aecio Neves, the strongest of the second tier candidates, appear to be waning. However, if Serra's prospects were to nose-dive because of a scandal, health concerns, or a serious blunder, Neves would be the obvious choice for the PSDB. Alternatively, Neves could switch parties to run as a PMDB, PSB or even Green Party (PV) candidate, but would have to do so by October 2009 (see ref C). 

6. (SBU) Alternative names will continue to surface, and there will certainly be a handful of other candidates from other parties ranging from nationally important to "dwarf" parties. "Also-rans" currently in the news include Heloisa Helena, leader of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), a small far left party, who came in third in 2006 with 6.85 percent, and Ciro Gomes, a federal deputy from the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). In 1998, Gomes came in third for president with 11 percent of the vote, and in 2002 came in fourth with 12 percent. He is positioning himself to run for governor of Sao Paulo or for president as a second pro-Lula candidate. In either case, he would do Rousseff and the PT the favor of being the hatchet man against Serra, with the expectation of a cabinet position if Rousseff won. Under current circumstances, these second-tier candidates stand little chance of surpassing either of the two front-runners. The last two presidential elections were also primarily contests between the PSDB and the PT, and the broad political alignment remains the same as it was in 2002 and 2006. 

Third Term for President Lula? 

7. (SBU) President Lula has repeatedly and convincingly stated he does not want to serve a third consecutive term, which would require a constitutional amendment (PEC) enacted not less than a year before the election. This month, a Chamber of Deputies committee probably put an end to any possible amendment when it overwhelmingly voted down such a proposal. Federal Deputy Jose Genoino, a senior PT figure, recommended its rejection, signally the party's opposition to a third consecutive term. Given the lead time necessary to approve a PEC and the PT's opposition, the chances of a 2011-2015 Lula presidency can now be ruled out. Some analysts, including Andre Miranda, and many opposition figures now believe Lula plans to run in 2014, in which case he could serve two additional terms. 

Strategies Beginning to Take Shape 

8. (U) Analysts say that Rousseff and Serra are developing similar campaign strategies: try to win massively in their bases with a single overall message, and diminish the other party's margin of victory in its stronghold with a single, different, and resonant message. Thiago de Aragao, of the Arko Advice consulting firm, said the PT is probably unbeatable in the north and northeast, home to a large percentage of Brazil's poor, and will reinforce its image as the guarantor of generous social welfare programs such as the Bolsa Familia (Family Stipend). At the same time, the PT will attack Serra in the south and southeast, where the PSDB is strongest, with a message of demonstrated executive competence through Rousseff's leading role in the PAC. In the south and southeast, Serra will run on his record as governor of Sao Paulo to persuade voters he has the administrative competency and leadership to be president. In the north and northeast, Aragao believes, Serra will try to reassure the poor that he would maintain social spending. He will also try to associate the PT with ongoing corruption scandals, although it will not be the most important message for voters, Aragao said. Wooing the PMDB 

9. (U) The Brazilian Democratic Mvement Party (PMDB), Brazil's largest political arty, will play a crucial and probably decisive ole in the election. The PMDB, a fractured and no-ideological confederation of state organization that often form alliances for local reasons, oftn prefers to play a supporting role to a presidetial candidate rather than running its own, allowig it to enter the government with the winner or,if on the losing side, to seek concessions from he winner exchange for joining the government coaition. According to Andre Miranda, of the PATRI cnsulting firm, and Thiago de Aragao, both partie are wooing the PMDB because, as the holder of te most seats in congress and more mayoral slots han any other party, the PMDB can take advantage of a vast network of influential local politicians who get the vote out. The PMDB is in the Lula government coalition, and analysts expect the party will back Rousseff, putting it in a position to demand the vice presidential slot. 

10. (U) A less likely possibility is a PSDB-PMDB alliance, which cannot be ruled out because, according to Aragao, old rivalries make a PT-PMDB alliance impossible in nine states. Moreover, a powerful PMDB figure in Sao Paulo, Orestes Quercia, has already pledged to support Jose Serra. (Note: Quercia's support would be in exchange for Serra's support for Quercia's expected run for the Senate in 2010. End note.) Possible PMDB vice presidential running mates include Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro, Michel Temer, president of the Chamber of Deputies, and Nelson Jobim, the Defense Minister. Miranda said the PMDB might increase the ticket's appeal in the south and southeast by choosing a southerner such as Nelson Jobim, of Rio Grande do Sul. State Alliances a Complicating Factor 

11. (U) The effort by Rousseff and Serra to build support beyond their respective bases is being complicated by the need for parties to build coalitions in support of their candidates in the simultaneous races for state deputy, federal deputy, senator, and governor. Brazilian parties traditionally form state and federal alliances in support of a slate of candidates for these races, but alliances in favor of state and federal candidates often differ from those at the local level. Local rivalries often make state-level alliances in support of a national candidate difficult, and local politics often make for strange bedfellows. Several state PMDB branches are bitter rivals of the PT and will not back a state or national PT candidate. Under Brazilian law, parties are free to enter regional coalitions that are different from coalitions in support of a presidential candidate. The result is a complex and unpredictable patchwork of alliances that may or may not be effective in mustering a party's support for a presidential candidate. For example, in Pernambuco the PMDB traditionally allies with the PSDB and DEM at the state level, and can be expected to do so even if Dilma Rousseff's running mate is from the PMDB. The Limits of Early Polling 

12. (SBU) Early polls are not particularly reliable in Brazil as a result of low party membership (less than ten percent of voters) and the non-ideological nature of Brazilian politics. The similarities between the platforms of the two most likely candidates and their equally matched (i.e., limited) personal charisma are also factors that could allow small events or mistakes to carry out-sized weight during the campaign. One additional reason for the low reliability of early polls is the extreme influence of television advertising among the masses in the run-up to the first round. Campaign advertising in electronic media is strictly regulated by law, presidential candidates are allotted the same amount of free advertising time, all stations must broadcast the campaign messages simultaneously. The season for presidential campaign messages is short and opens only two months before the election. As a result, this advertising may cause sudden changes in the candidates' relative popularity. Electoral Volatility, Institutional Stability 

13. (SBU) Fifteen months, the time remaining before the October 2010 presidential election, is a long time in Brazilian politics. Although Serra, the favorite to win only six months ago, has lost some ground to Rousseff, the inherent volatility of the political process will make it difficult to pick the winner up to the end. A steady stream of political scandals and the accompanying revelations could change the landscape suddenly and surprisingly. In 2006, the "bloodsuckers" scandal sent the presidential race to a second round, although it did not change the result. The outcome of the Senate scandal and its possible effects on the 2010 election are still unclear (ref D, septel). Rousseff's lymphatic cancer introduces an uncertainty that could invalidate calculations about the election's outcome (ref C). But in spite of the unpredictability that is typical of Brazilian politics, institutional stability is as great as it has ever been in the post-military dictatorship period. The system is dealing fairly well with scandals and there are no signs of a turn toward populism or the possibility of anything but strict constitutional order. 

14. (U) Mission Brazil takes the opportunity of his final cable to say farewell to Dale Prince, our lead domestic political analyst for the last three years, whose in-depth knowledge, insights, and contacts we will miss. This cable was cleared by Consulate General Sao Paulo. 

KUBISKE