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Brazilians vote in runoff mayoral elections

Brazilians vote in runoff mayoral elections

Brazil's ruling party will likely lose its push to retake control of South America's biggest city on Sunday in mayoral runoff elections that could see the country's second city elect an ex-guerrilla who once kidnapped a U.S. ambassador.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's Workers' Party is poised to gain power in many cities _ but lose Sao Paulo, the biggest prize and a springboard for the next presidential election.
The latest survey by Datafolha shows incumbent Mayor Gilberto Kassab, of the conservative Democrat Party, nearly 20 points ahead of former Mayor Marta Suplicy of the Workers' Party.
Both candidates ran on similar platforms, but Suplicy, who served as tourism minister in Silva's administration, lags in the polls because of her personality and perceptions of arrogance, said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia.
Despite the global financial crisis that has robbed Brazil's currency of half its value, none of the leading candidates backed off promises of improved roads, schools, public transportation and health services.
In Brazil, mayors are powerful vote gatherers in nationwide presidential and congressional elections. If Kassab wins, he almost certainly will back the candidacy of Sao Paulo State Gov. Jose Serra, according to Fleischer. Silva beat Serra in Brazil's 2002 presidential race.
"Serra will not only win his party's nomination, he stands a good chance of winning the 2010 elections," Fleischer said.
But Christopher Garman, head of Latin America research for the New York-based Eurasia Group consulting firm, said the impact of the Sao Paulo race should not be overestimated.
"A Workers' Party loss should not be read as an indicator that Lula won't be able to elect his successor," he said in a recent report.
In Rio de Janeiro, polls show that Fernando Gabeira _ a guerrilla-turned-congressman who in 1969 masterminded the abduction of the U.S. ambassador to Rio, Charles Elbrick, to protest the military dictatorship _ has a fighting chance to become mayor of Brazil's second-largest city.
The soft-spoken, bespectacled, motorcycle-riding Gabeira is running as the Green Party candidate against Eduardo Paes of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, which is aligned with the president.
The latest surveys show Gabeira, 67, and Paes, 39, locked in a technical tie. Momentum has shifted slightly toward Paes in the last week, however.
If elected, Gabeira would join a growing number of former revolutionaries holding government posts in Brazil.
The president's social communication minister, Franklin Martins, also took part in Elbrick's kidnapping, and chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, a likely presidential contender in 2010, played a leading role in the armed resistance to the 1964-1985 dictatorship.
Unlike Gabeira, none of them have been banned from entering the United States. And their past has not had any influence on U.S.-Brazilian relations.
Alexandre Barros of the Brasilia-based Early Warning political risk consultancy said he does not think Gabeira's radical past is influencing voters.
"What I would like to know is, if he wins, will the United States continue denying entry to the mayor of Brazil's second largest city?" Barros said.
Gabeira has pledged to work to end the long-running violence in Rio's slums, where combat by drug traffickers against renegade militias and police frequently catches residents in the crossfire.
Silva's Workers' Party put in a strong showing in first-round voting Oct. 5, winning elections in 137 cities including six of 27 state capitals.


Updated : 2021-05-17 12:34 GMT+08:00