Q+A-Prospects for Brazil's 2010 election

BRASILIA Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:32pm EDT

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BRASILIA Aug 18 (Reuters) - Brazil will hold a presidential election in October 2010 to choose the successor to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term. Parties will formally nominate their candidates late this year. Here are some frequently asked questions about the race

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Q: What is the procedure for the election?

A: A candidate must have more than 50 percent of the vote to win. A second-round run-off is held between the top two candidates if no one has an absolute majority after the first round.

Q: Can Dilma Rousseff, Lula's chief of staff and a center-left candidate, catch Sao Paulo state governor Jose Serra, who leads her by about 20 percentage points in current opinion polls?

A: It is likely to become a much closer race. Rousseff is not as known as Serra and will have to increase her media exposure considerably. But she will be able to point to Brazil's relatively strong economic growth during the Lula administration and will have Lula, who has an approval rating of more than 70 percent, campaigning actively on her behalf. Her treatment for lymphoma cancer earlier this year has had little impact on her polling performance. Some say it could generate a sympathy vote.

Q: Will Rousseff's chances be damaged by the possible entry of leftist candidates, such as former environment minister Marina Silva and the Brazilian Socialist Party's Ciro Gomes?

A: Rousseff could lose votes on the left and among women to Silva. Gomes also has significant support, running closely behind Rousseff in current opinion polls. But most analysts believe neither of the leftist challengers would be able to displace Rousseff from second place in the election.

Both Gomes and Silva would likely throw their support behind Rousseff in the event of a run-off against Serra.

Q: What are the chances that a candidate other than Rousseff or Serra will win?

A: Slim. The centrist Serra has a strong lead in opinion polls, national name recognition from decades in public office and a power base in Sao Paulo, Brazil's financial capital and largest city. Rousseff has the backing of Lula and his ruling Worker's Party.

Q: What are the chances that Lula will decide at the last minute to run for the presidency again?

A: It's very unlikely. To run for a third consecutive term, he would have to get Congress to approve a constitutional amendment one year before the election, or by the end of September, a nearly impossible feat.

Q: What is the risk of an economic populist winning in 2010?

A: None of the leading candidates proposes a radical break from current economic policies. Brazil's strong growth and economic stability in recent years has given more credibility to market-friendly economic policies, such as a free-floating currency and inflation targets. The 2002 election victory of Lula, once a fiery, leftist union leader, has moderated much of Brazil's left.

(Reporting by Raymond Colitt; editing by Stuart Grudgings and Paul Simao)

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