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Brazilian workers party loses major cities

10 November 2004, Posted in News

Brazilian workers party loses major cities

Brazil ‘s city of Porto Alegre has been a model of how a democratic local authority governs. Under a 16-year workers’ party (PT) rule, the municipality introduced a system where citizens and their organisations are involved in the city’s budgets and decision-making. In elections held in October 2004, PT lost the town; an outcome that sent shockwaves throughout the progressive world.

What was more shocking is the fact that PT did not only lose in Porto Alegre . The party was also routed in other major cities such as Sí£o Paulo , Rio de Janeiro , Florianopolis , Goiania and Curitiba . This, after PT’s Lula da Silva’s 2002 election as the country’s president raised hopes that Brazil was ready to jump out of the clutches of conservatives.

“In our hearts we felt the loss of towns like Sí£o Paulo and Porto Alegre . Workers are crying where PT lost the vote”, said the president of Brazil ‘s metalworkers union, Fernandez Lopez in his recent visit to South Africa .

According to Lopez internal fights within the PT, mistakes that the party committed as well as difficult choices that one must make when change is introduced, are some of the factors that led to the workers party’s weak performance in the elections.

Municipal debt in Brazil stood at US$18-billion by the end of 2003. For the CNM/CUT leader while the loss of the big towns is not good for PT, it is important to note that the party has increased the number of towns that it controls. PT now runs 425 municipalities compared to 187 in 2000.

Other analysts differ with Lopez. For Transnational Institute ‘s (TNI) Daniel Chavez, PT’s loss is huge both in number and in terms of political significance. “In the group of municipalities known as G-96, which include 26 state capitals and another 70 cities with more than 150 000 voters – equivalent to 38,7% of the national electorate – the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), led by former President Cardoso, is the big winner”. Marshalling statistics, Chavez argues that the number of voters governed by the PSDB will jump from 5,3-million to 13,5 million, while the PT’s electoral constituency shrinks from 19,7-million to 10-million.

What these municipal election results mean politically, is something to be seen. Brazil holds its next presidential and provincial elections in 2006 and two years in politics is a long time.

Latin America keeps left

While media eyes focused on presidential elections in the United States , millions of Latin Americans went out to vote in five countries. As North Americans were busy with the George Bush – John Kerry show, Uruguay held its national elections. Local elections took place in Nicaragua , Brazil , Chile and Venezuela .

Except Brazil , election results in the five countries confirm a shift leftwards in South America ‘s political landscape.

Chile :Socialist Party-led Concertacion coalition swept the municipal vote and won 44,76% of mayoral positions. The main opposition garnered 37,73%. Concertacion also has the majority of councillors countrywide.

Nicaragua :The Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN), the left-wing revolutionary party that won power in 1979 but then lost it in the 1990s to pro-United States forces, has regained control at local government level.

In elections held on November 7, it won 110 out of 152 municipalities. At national level it holds 38 seats in the 92-member national assembly.

With a strong base at municipal and national assembly levels, and with support from trade unions, women’s groups, student and peasant organisations, the Sandinistas stand a good chance in next year’s election.

Venezuela :Under the leadership of left-wing President Hugo Chavez, a deeper programme of change is underway. Chavistas took 20 provinces out of 23, in elections held at the end of October. They hold the majority of the country’s 335 municipalities.

Uruguay : The election of Tabare Vazquez raises to three the number of countries in Latin America that have left presidents. Vazquez was a candidate for Frente Amplio – a broad front of socialists, communists, Christian democrats, Trotskyists and ex-Tupamaro urban guerrillas formed in 1971.