October 2, 2006
Brazil held presidential elections on Sunday, and President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva fell just short of an outright majority, necessitating a second-round election which will be held on October 29. "Lula" has been widely praised for the prudent way he has pursued his leftist agenda, which has helped a number of poor families, but his Workers' Party has been tarnished by a series of corruption scandals. Last week several of his campaign workers were accused of paying $800,000 for information the main opposing candidate, Geraldo Alckmin. Ironically, widespread cynicism about corruption in Brazil may shield Lula from the consequences. It was surprising nonetheless that Alckmin -- of the conservative Social Democrat Party -- received as much as 42 percent of the votes cast, because he was a relative unknown outside of the state of Sao Paulo, where he previously served as governor. See Washington Post and CNN.com. Since Lula came very close to the 50 percent threshhold in the first round, it seems almost certain that he will prevail in the second round. At least this will provide a greater opportunity for the conservative opposition to voice their opinions and force Lula to state more clearly what he intends to do in his (presumed) second term. Brazil's financial system has been weakened by heavy government spending, and economic experts warn that fiscal reforms are urgent.
This election has strong implications for the rest of Latin America, where leftist parties are being pulled in opposite directions: the moderate, pragmatic course of da Silva in Brazil and Bachelet in Chile, versus the radical, utopian course of Chavez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia. Failure by moderate leftists in Brazil might bode well for the extreme leftists in other countries.