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Wherever Sí£o Paulo Goes, Brazil Will Follow

Two years ago Brazil elected a left-wing president, Lula from the Workers Party (PT). He achieved his victory at the fourth attempt, losing in 1994 and 1998 to the Social Democrat (PSDB), Fernando Henrique Cardoso (more commonly known as FHC).

by Guy Burton

With his win in 2002, Lula’s presidency indicated a change in
the country’s political and economic direction.

2004 is another election year, but this time in the cities
across Brazil. But none is more important than the contest in São Paulo. This
city, of nearly 17 million, has sat at the centre of Brazil’s economy and
politics since the late nineteenth century.

Initially through coffee and later through its industrial
muscle, São Paulo now houses the majority of Brazil’s financial institutions,
including the country’s most important stock exchange.

But São Paulo is by no means socially equal. Sharp disparity in
wealth exists, with hundreds and thousands living in favelas (shanty
towns) around the city.

Politically, São Paulo has great weight. In the past no
president could survive without the tacit support of São Paulo. In 1932 the
state, led by the city, attempted to break away from the federation.

More recently the country’s most prominent politicians have
come from São Paulo, including Lula and FHC. In Congress, São Paulo (the state)
sends one of the largest delegations of elected representatives, a recognition
of the demographic size of the state.

And São Paulo city itself is larger in scale of government than
many of the country’s smaller states in the interior of the country.

Four years ago São Paulo elected Marta Suplicy, a member of
Lula’s party, to be its mayor. This year her main challenger is coming from José
Serra, a former Health Minister and fellow party member in FHC’s government.

As the first test of support in Lula’s leadership, the outcome
in São Paulo cannot be overstated. The size and importance of São Paulo makes
what should be a local contest into a national one.

Win or lose, much of the way the PT is perceived between now
and the presidential election in two years’ time will depend on Marta’s result.

Similarly, if the PSDB is to present a serious challenge to
Lula at those future elections, it will need to make a good showing in the
mayoral election.

But important as the story is, it’s not being reported beyond
Brazil. Much of the material relating to the election is Portuguese-only and
won’t get the kind of coverage it might otherwise have. An English-language
blog, we believe, should help bring this contest to a wider audience.

Because of the potential language difficulties for some
readers, this blog will attempt to give as balanced a view possible on the
election as it unfolds. However, we do reserve the right to pass comment from
time to time, but will endeavour to signpost these as we go along.



For much more about the coming São Paulo election visit
Guy Burton and Andrew Steven’s blog at http://www.saopaulo2004.blogspot.com

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