Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Lula's illness brings uncertainty into Brazilian politics

On 28th October, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and immediately underwent chemotherapy treatment at the Syrian-Lebanese Hospital in São Paulo. According to his doctors, Lula has a 90 per cent chance of making a full recovery. All of Lula's official commitments including a loaded speaking agenda were cancelled through to the end of January 2012.

Lula's illness has a series of political implications. He has lately been travelling around the country, giving speeches and trying to build local alliances for his Workers' Party (PT) with a view to the municipal elections, which are to take place in October 2012. But for now his political campaigning has to cease, which will give other campaigners a chance to redouble their efforts. The importance of these elections is that the mayors of large cities usually have a great deal of influence over the process of nominations of candidates for presidential and legislative elections, and could therefore have an impact on those of 2014.

While it is still an open question whether Lula or President Dilma Rousseff will be PT's candidate for the presidency in 2014, and Dilma is quietly asserting her own credentials, the emotional factor raised by Lula's illness cannot be discounted. The Brazilian voter characteristically has sympathy for the underdog, and Lula has become one by virtue of his cancer. He is also a legent in the minds of the poor and the downtrodden, and they constitute the majority of the electorate, especially in the populous northeast, while the ascending middle class elsewhere in the country also ascribe their economic and social progress to Lula's policies. Should he therefore decide to run in 2014, and be physically able to do so, he would most likely win the election by a landslide. And so somewhat rather unexpectedly, an element of uncertainty has been introduced into Brazilian politics.

For more news and expert analysis about Brazil, please see Brazil Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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