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By Pedro Widmar, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – With recent developments putting the Marvelous City center-stage during the next decade, both in Brazil and the world, the state government elections have taken on a higher profile. Currently, it seems Brazil’s tourist capital runoffs will be shaped as much by national party politics, as by regional polling.

Governor Sergio Cabral Filho, photo by Pedro Widmar.
Governor Sergio Cabral Filho, photo by Pedro Widmar.

As the state and federal elections take shape leading up to October 2010, local alliances with federal candidates have begun to form, and with regional candidates striving to affiliate their names to strong party blocks, the usual disputes have been set in motion. Rio’s three strongest candidates so far appear to be the incumbent Governor Sergio Cabral Filho (PMDB), Fernando Gabeira (PV), and Anthony Garotinho (PMDB).

In polls held throughout recent months Cabral looks to possess a significant majority of nearly 35 percent. However, between him and the current runner up, former governor Anthony Garotinho, the intentions to vote are only 60 percent, suggesting that a compromise candidate could potentially be looking at a majority vote of 40 percent. With many names still contemplating a run at the governor’s chair, one likely name to fill this spot is Fernando Gabeira.

Gabeira, the Green Party candidate, is best known for his surprisingly strong finish in the mayoral elections in 2008, when he was defeated by just 2 percent, a result all the more impressive due to his weak start – early on he accounted for just 11 percent of the votes.

At the time the election revealed an economic class divide in Rio de Janeiro politics, with Gabeira only leading in predominantly wealthy areas of the city, but with strong national support now from the PSDB’s presidential candidate José Serra, and the PV’s presidential hopeful, Marina Silva, Gabeira’s candidacy is likely to receive a strong boost in the coming months.

Fernando Gabeira, photo by Fabio Pozzebom/ABr.
Fernando Gabeira, photo by Fabio Pozzebom/ABr.

Incumbent Governor Sergio Cabral still holds a strong position though. With his administration’s 47 percent approval rating, President Lula’s explicit support, and a guaranteed coalition endorsement from the Rousseff campaign, Cabral is the current favorite. The governor, who until last year was rumored to have vice-presidential aspirations for a Rousseff ballot, has shown a desire to stick with a state seat.

Even despite recent allegations being hurdled at him from all sides, Cabral has shown staying power with regional voters and the mud doesn’t seem to stick. Although his team has low numbers on individual issues, the governor remains popular and has a high individual rating.

Perhaps the weakest position of the three current candidates, in terms of alliances, is Anthony Garotinho. With his name tarnished by political scandal and accusations of running a state-wide corruption ring, Garotinho has yet to find national support. Having seen his party back Cabral, and receiving no support from the PMDB’s coalition PT party, it is unclear how long the former governor will continue his bid.

Having recently declared that he would support Serra if President Lula did not stay impartial during the state campaign, Garotinho received no reply. Furthermore, his second place in the polls is largely based on research conducted in Campos de Goytacaze’s, which does not necessarily translate across the state as a whole.

With Rio de Janeiro set to host high profile international events such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the state promises to be a focal point in the 2010 national elections. But regardless of presidential candidates backing, as independent coalitions start to flourish and the demographic lines are drawn, it will still be up to the state candidates to prove their inherent worth locally.

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