By Pedro Widmar, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Next month the PT (Brazilian Worker’s Party) will hold its fourth congress. The event, which is scheduled from February, 18th to the 21st, will be a chance for the party to discuss its general directives, organize campaign strategies for October’s federal and state elections, and, as has been expected for many months, launch the official candidacy of presidential hopeful and current Lula administration Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff. Set to cost nearly R$7 million, the congress will be a defining mark for many key campaign decisions.
Rousseff’s name has been strongly attached to the Lula administration’s deeds and has grown considerably since the fall of Lula’s former Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, in 2005. Dirceu was a strong name in the government and quoted by some at the time to be the PT’s future front man.
After the Mensalão scandal however, which led to his fall from power and eventual impeachment, the party turned their focus on a second potential candidate the then Minister of Finance, Antonio Palocci. But in an unlikely turn of events Palocci resigned from the ministry in 2006 after accusations of fraud became heavily stacked against him.
Since that time President Lula began grooming Rousseff and constantly accrediting key achievements of his presidency to the once obscure political figure. For some her relative inexperience in politics at that point was seen as a plus amidst the ambiance of scandals that threatened Lula’s legacy.
Rousseff brought a fresh name to the administration and gained popularity inside the party. Seen as the name behind the PAC (Plan for Accelerating Growth), Rousseff has translated her political clout into national recognition.
As Rousseff has admitted in interviews, her campaign strategy will be to build her platform around the current administrations populist governing plan – most importantly the PAC – and to assure voters of a continuation government. As she recently mentioned in a distinction between herself and the current leader in the presidential polls, José Serra from the PSDB, “The Lula government is our legacy, and only we have this.”
President Lula, who is expected to attend the congress, is the backbone of Rousseff’s presidential bid. However, this presents a problem for the Chief of Staff who as of yet does not have enough personal achievements to base her campaign around.
As the current president of the PT, Ricardo Berzoini, recently stated in an interview, “Rousseff will have to give the image of a continuation government but also show that there is still much to do in Brazil, she can’t just hang on past achievements.”
With the PT behind her and President Lula’s continued public support, Rousseff’s most important decision will come in the next weeks as she is expected to choose a vice-presidential running mate. As part of an alliance deal fixed in November 2009 Dilma’s party will most likely take on a PMDB affiliate.
Currently the most quoted name for the ballot is the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Michel Temer. Temer’s support – due to his party holding the largest number of seats in the country – would also give Rousseff the longest spot for electoral television advertisements, a welcome benefit for a candidate who currently ranks a distant second in presidential polls.