Leftist predicts victory in Brazil's election runoff

Ex-union leader to face government's candidate

October 08, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SAO PAULO, Brazil - After narrowly missing outright victory in presidential elections Sunday, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the leftist Workers Party predicted yesterday that he would triumph in the runoff Oct. 27 against Jose Serra, the government's candidate.

"We are ready to win these elections," da Silva said. "The decision has merely been postponed. We will work hard to win votes and change the history of our country."

With nearly all votes counted, da Silva, a former metalworker and union leader, polled 46.44 percent, comfortably ahead of Serra's 23.21 percent but short of the 50 percent needed to win outright.

As the final results trickled in yesterday, both candidates were moving to garner political backing for second-round balloting.

Da Silva's aides were setting up meetings with key opposition leaders, including former Presidents Jose Sarney and Itamar Franco, as well as Anthony Garotinho and Ciro Gomes, who placed third and fourth, respectively, in Sunday's vote.

"The 76 percent of Brazilians who voted for Ciro, Garotinho and Lula in the first round will join forces in the second round," said Jose Dirceu, the Workers Party president. "The country voted for the opposition."

But in the government camp, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who has governed this nation of 175 million for the past eight years, was preparing to take a more active role in Serra's campaign, and their Brazilian Social Democracy Party was putting out feelers to its former coalition partner, the conservative Liberal Front.

The Liberal Front, which appeared to be on track to form the largest single party in Congress, left the government this year, blaming Serra for scuttling the chances of its presidential candidate, Roseana Sarney. It supported Gomes in the first round.

Da Silva, 57, who ran in three previous presidential elections, has made a very public shift toward the political center, playing down his party's socialist platform and embracing key free-market tenets such as fiscal discipline and low inflation. He has reversed his former calls to repudiate Brazil's foreign debt and break with the International Monetary Fund.

Da Silva, who now wears suits rather than his old favored checked work shirts and jeans, said Sunday's vote was "against the current economic model, against economic dependency."

Social issues, rather than economics, would be at the heart of his administration, da Silva said, adding that he is against "greed."

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