Monday, October 30, 2006

Lula Wins Second Term as President of Brazil

Brazil re-elects President Lula

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been re-elected in a clear victory, polling more than 60% of the vote against rival Geraldo Alckmin.

In a victory speech, Lula said he would govern for all Brazilians and intensify efforts to alleviate poverty during his second four-year term.

"We will give attention to the most needy. The poor will have preference in our government," he said.

Lula narrowly failed to win in the first round, forcing Sunday's run-off.

In a speech in Sao Paulo, Lula promised to boost growth and reduce inequality to put Brazil on track to reach the ranks of developed nations.

"The foundation is in place, and now we have to get to work," he told crowds of supporters who had taken to the streets in celebration, waving Workers' Party flags.

Supporter Danusia Alves said: "For me it is a great happiness because we have a wonderful government. The people who were never taken care of now are being taken care of."

'Resounding victory'

Votes in Sunday's run-off were cast using electronic ballot boxes, allowing officials to deliver a swift result.

A partial count showed the incumbent president had 60% of the vote - an insurmountable lead. Shortly after, the head of Brazil's electoral court declared Lula re-elected.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Sao Paulo says it is a resounding victory for a man who was written off by many just over a year ago, when his Workers' Party was at the centre of a cash-for-votes scandal.

But Lula weathered that storm and another during the first phase of this campaign when party colleagues were again accused of corruption, our correspondent says.

Lula narrowly failed to win outright in the first round of voting on 1 October.

During the ensuing campaign the president suggested to voters that Mr Alckmin might scrap welfare benefits for the poor and privatise Brazil's remaining state companies.

Privatisation is generally viewed with suspicion in Brazil. Despite repeated denials by Mr Alckmin, the accusation undoubtedly cost him votes, our correspondent adds.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/30 01:28:54 GMT

Profile: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has won a second four-year term as Brazil's president, in a resounding victory over his challenger Geraldo Alckmin.

In his victory speech on 29 October, Lula, as the 61-year-old politician is known, promised that his second term would be "better than the first".

He told cheering supporters in Sao Paulo: "The foundation is in place, and now we have to get to work."

Lula has promised to boost economic growth and reduce inequality to put the country on track to reach the ranks of developed nations.

Four years ago, he became the first left-wing contender to hold the country's highest office in nearly half a century, following an landslide victory.

It was a win that marked the end of an unprecedented journey-from abject poverty to the presidency of Brazil.

Lula came to power promising major reforms to the country's political and economic system.

He vowed to eradicate hunger and create a self-confident, caring, outward-looking nation.

Analysts say that it is because of some of his government's social programmes - which benefit tens of millions of Brazilians - that Lula maintained huge popularity among the electorate.

But in the last 18 months he has had to fight hard to avoid the taint of corruption claims that have engulfed his Workers' Party (PT).

Smear allegations

The latest scandal, over alleged dirty tricks, led Lula to sack his re-election campaign chief and PT president, Ricardo Berzoini, with less than two weeks to go before the first round of voting.

Commentators say the allegations may have reawakened disillusionment sparked last year by a controversy over alleged bribes for votes in congress, which led to the resignation of the party leader, Jose Genoino, and several high-level colleagues.

Lula narrowly failed to win outright on 1 October, leading to a run-off vote.

During the ensuing campaign the president suggested to voters that his rival might scrap welfare benefits for the poor and privatise Brazil's remaining state companies.

Privatisation is generally viewed with suspicion in Brazil. Despite repeated denials by Mr Alckmin, the accusation undoubtedly cost him votes and contributed to Lula's resounding second-round victory, correspondents say.

Lost a finger

October's presidential election was the fifth that Lula had fought. But he began life in altogether more humble circumstances.

The son of a poor, illiterate peasant family, Lula worked as a peanut seller and shoe-shine boy as a child, only learning to read when he was 10 years old.

He went on to train as a metal worker and found work in an industrial city near Sao Paulo, where he lost the little finger of his left hand in an accident in the 1960s.

Lula was not initially interested in politics, but threw himself into trade union activism after his first wife died of hepatitis in 1969.

Elected leader of the 100,000-strong Metalworkers' Union in 1975, he transformed trade union activism in Brazil by turning what had mostly been government-friendly organisations into a powerful independent movement.

Road to pragmatism

In 1980 Lula brought together a combination of trade unionists, intellectuals, Trotskyites and church activists to found the Workers' Party (PT), the first major socialist party in the country's history.

Since then the PT has gradually replaced its revolutionary commitment to changing the power structure in Brazil with a more pragmatic, social democratic platform.

Before his 2002 election victory, Lula had previously lost three times, and he began to believe his party would never win power nationally without forming alliances and keeping powerful economic players on side.

So his coalition in that election included a small right-wing party, and he carefully courted business leaders both in Brazil and abroad.

The Workers' Party manifesto reflected its sometimes conflicting instincts. It remained committed to prioritising the poor, encouraging grassroots participation and defending ethical government.

Performance in power

In the four years since, Lula has pumped billions of dollars into social programmes and can reasonably claim to be reversing Brazil's historic inequalities.

By increasing the minimum wage well above inflation and broadening state help to the most impoverished with a family grant programme, the Bolsa Familia, he has helped some 44 million people and cemented his support among the poor.

However, many commentators argue that the programme fails to address the structural problems that underpin poverty, such as education.

There is also some criticism of the country's economic performance under Lula. Although Brazil has seen steady annual growth, some business leaders argue it is losing the competitive edge against international rivals.

Nonetheless, his government has quelled the initial fears of the financial markets by keeping the economy stable and achieving the budget surplus required by the International Monetary Fund.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/30 00:40:48 GMT

Brazil press looks to future

Leading newspapers in Brazil welcome the re-election of incumbent President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and focus on his pledge to push ahead with political and economic reforms.

A report in O Globo quotes top analysts as calling for the speedy introduction of reforms as a way of raising living standards for the tens of millions of Brazilians who still live in poverty.

Tadeu Monteiro, president of the Brazilian Social Research Institute, says the beginning of Lula's second term in office is the best time to implement the reforms.

"It is important to make the most of the call for reform. We need reform - that is fundamental," says Mr Monteiro .

O Globo quotes Rogerio Schmitt of Tendencias Consultoria as saying that "next year will bring the biggest window of opportunity to approve the tax and other reforms.

"The beginning of a new mandate is seen as the best time, not just because the president has just been re-elected but also because the next elections are a long way away."

'Why Lula won'

Jornal do Comercio says that the president called on his adversaries "to join the new government to ensure vigorous economic growth and the implementation of reforms the nation is demanding".

It publishes a front-page banner headline with the word "Victory" under a picture of a waving president.

Folha de Sao Paulo carries a headline "Why Lula won."

"Lula won for a simple reason: he managed to link his humble beginnings in the north-east with the social progress of the four years of his mandate, creating a strong identification with voters, most of them poor.

"The figures show that in the last four years, the poorer enjoyed a clear increase in their income. Whether this is sustainable is another matter. Brazil is mostly a country of poor people - and the poor have felt less poor."

According to a report in Jornal do Brasil : "Lula said Brazil would grow more in the second term, but the poor would continue to be a priority."

The paper also appears impressed that "the president gave the first sign he wishes to improve his relationship with the media".

"Lula did not give many collective interviews in the first mandate, which led to many complaints among journalists."

Estado de Sao Paulo describes the elections as "one of the most peaceful since the return of democracy".

Folha de Sao Paulo also looks ahead to the 2010 elections, for which Lula will be ineligible, but believes he will be in a powerful position to influence the outcome "if he does a good job in his second mandate".

"Lula's succession is already at the centre of every major party's tactics," it writes.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/30 12:55:35 GMT

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