By Pedro Widmar, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – 2010 will mark the election of the 36th official President of the Brazilian Republic. Although the official calendar for campaigning does not begin until October 3rd, the political atmosphere is already dense with debate.
The deadline for candidate registry isn’t until July 5th, but with parties looking to affiliate themselves to recent Brazilian political triumphs – such as the Olympics – a handful of pre-candidates for the presidency are already popping into the limelight. Amongst the many who plan to run, the current forerunners are: Marina Silva (PV-AC), José Serra (PSDB-SP), Dilma Rousseff (PT), and Ciro Gomes (PSB-CE).
Marina Silva (PV) – The Green Candidate
Marina Silva has gained substantial popularity due to her aggressive pro-green rhetoric. With her campaign videos being produced by internationally famed director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardner, City of God) and with Natura executive, Guilherme Leal, quoted as a potential vice-presidential running mate, Marina Silva stands good odds in the line up.
Recently abandoning the PT party due to her belief that it was no longer taking active steps against deforestation, an issue which has been the flagstone of her political career, the senator and ex-Environmental Minister from Acre joined Brazil’s Green Party (PV) in hopes of giving new emphasis to the countries environmental goals. In a polemic move in early 2008 Silva handed President Lula a letter renouncing her ministerial post due to “personal and irreversible” beliefs.
In the PV she found strong political support for her agenda, and despite speculation that her party could forgo an individual candidacy to align itself with the eminently stronger PSDB, Silva has claimed that she will not abandon the race under any circumstances. Currently in last place in polls with 6 percent, Marina is one to watch out for in the coming months.
José Serra (PSDB) – The Opposition Candidate
The veteran political leader and Governor of Sao Paulo is the current favorite in the presidential polls. José Serra who was one of the founders of the PSDB (Brazil’s Socialist Democratic Party) has a reputedly center-right position in Brazilian politics. A self-exile during the Brazilian Dictatorship, Serra studied abroad and upon his return began his political life.
The current governor has the most replete record of experience with time spent in nearly all levels of municipal, state, and federal government. He is considered a strong contender for the presidency despite his non-populist approach to governing. Serra has a reputedly aggressive fiscal policy, and his high approval rating in Sao Paulo has given him strong backing inside his party.
His only weakness, according to some analysts, is that he does not share the same support inside the countries stronger and crucial coalition party, the PMDB. But despite this Serra currently leads in the polls with 39 percent of the votes.
Dilma Rousseff (PT) – The Situation Candidate
President Lula’s choice and current Chief of Staff, Dilma Rousseff has a long road ahead of her. Rousseff, whose career in politics started after her active participation in guerrilla resistance to Brazil’s military dictatorship, is affiliated to the Brazilian Workers Party (PT). She spent three years imprisoned during the dictatorship during which time she reports to have been brutally tortured.
Rousseff is an economist with a strong leftist and nationalist background. Having been appointed to the Ministry of Energy, she spent her time there adapting her socialist ideas to a more modern approach. Rousseff herself has addressed her time in the position as a learning curve between ideals and reality. Critics have stated her lack of experience in governing as a real weakness for Rousseff who was a political unknown until a few years back.
Her candidacy was made possible after the “Mensalão” scandal that led to the downfall of Lula’s closest allies in 2006. But President Lula’s consistently strong approval rating and constant support has slingshot his Chief of Staff from obscurity into the second place in the polls. Dilma has pledged to give continuation to Lula’s governing project and currently accounts for 17 percent of the vote.
Ciro Gomes (PSB) – The Candidate That Could…
Once Student Leader, Lawyer, and ex-National Integration Minister during the Lula government, Ciro Gomes is not a household name in Brazilian politics. Somehow though, he continues to go back-and-forth from third to second place in the election polls with likely government candidate Dilma Rousseff.
Gomes has publicly stated his contentment with strong intention poll results. Quoted by some as a split-vote candidate for the PT, Gomes is in direct confrontation with the Serra candidacy, which strengthens Rousseffs’ presidential bid. With little inner party backing, his candidacy seems a long shot, but with the changing of the tides, he could be looking at PT backing for a presidential or possibly vice-presidential nomination.
With things heating up this year around issues of constitutional importance, many feel the race has already begun. Cases like Cesare Battisti, Journalism Diplomas, and Amesty disputes for dictatorship period torturers have intensified the demands for positions from the pre-candidates. While some have remained tight-lipped, they’ll soon have to take their positions.