Silva Seeks Agenda Support From Brazil Candidates

Marina Silva, Brazil’s third-place finisher in this week’s presidential elections, will seek pledges from the remaining candidates on issues including health and the environment as they vie for her endorsement.

Dilma Rousseff, the former Cabinet chief for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and former Sao Paulo Governor Jose Serra are courting Silva ahead of the Oct. 31 runoff to choose Brazil’s next president. In the first round, Rousseff won 47 percent of votes; Serra, 33 percent; and Silva 19 percent.

Silva’s Green Party is seeking support for an agenda that seeks environmentally sensitive development, prioritizes education and health spending, and protects citizens’ privacy, Alfredo Sirkis, who was elected a Green Party federal deputy Oct. 3, said in a phone interview from Sao Paulo. The party will meet in about 15 days to decide whether Silva, who is out of the race, will back either candidate or remain neutral, Sirkis said.

“We believe some of the Green Party proposals are feasible,” said Sirkis, a member of the party’s executive committee. “We won’t ask for the moon.”

Silva, 52, said yesterday she received phone calls from both candidates congratulating her for the 19.6 million votes she won.

Rousseff, 62, and Serra, 68, are competing for Silva’s supporters, who include environmentalists, university-educated young professionals and a group of evangelical Christians who defected from Rousseff on concern she favors legalizing abortion.

“Now everything begins once more,” Silva told reporters late yesterday in Sao Paulo. “It’s a second chance for us all.”

Governors and Senators

Lula asked governors and senators from the ruling coalition that were elected this week to help bring on board voters who chose Silva in the first round, Institutional Affairs Minister Alexandre Padilha told reporters today in Brasilia.

“We will dialogue with Marina’s voters, with the social and popular movements, congressmen and mayors that supported Marina,” Padilha said. “We will talk not only to Marina, but with the group of parties and associations that supported her, because we think they raised key issues for Brazil, such as the environmental agenda.”

Silva’s supporters have higher incomes and more education than average, and are more likely to switch to Serra instead of Rousseff because of concern about media reports that tied her associates to alleged influence peddling, said Christopher Garman, director for Latin America at Washington-based researcher Eurasia Group. Still, Rousseff has an 80 percent chance of winning, he said.

Stronger Real

“Dilma is so close to winning that she doesn’t need many votes from Marina,” Garman said in a telephone interview.

Brazil’s currency surged to its strongest level in more than two years as Japan’s interest rate cut overwhelmed Brazil’s efforts to weaken the currency by taxing foreign purchases of bonds. The real climbed 1.7 percent to 1.6692 against the dollar as of 3:25 p.m. in New York.

A Datafolha poll taken Oct. 1-2 showed that Silva drew her biggest support among young adults with university educations and income of more than 5,100 reais ($3,047) who live in metropolitan areas. While her support was 16 percent overall, she drew the backing of 27 percent of Brazilians with college degrees, according to the poll, which surveyed 20,960 people and had a margin of error of two percentage points.

Considering Options

Serra may seek to overcome Rousseff’s lead by stepping up attacks alleging ties to corruption, promising benefits to the poor and wooing religious voters, analysts said. Rousseff’s support in polls declined after media reports of alleged influence peddling by family members of Erenice Guerra, her successor in Lula’s Cabinet. Guerra, who denies wrongdoing, resigned her post to fight the accusations that her sons helped negotiate contracts for companies doing business with the government.

Another month of campaigning may “add some spice to the contest” as the two candidates spell out their positions, St. Petersburg, Florida-based investment firm Raymond James Latin America SA said yesterday in a report.

“We expect the race to develop a slightly more populist twist, following Serra’s proposal to raise the minimum wage by 18 percent next year, with Dilma likely countering this with a similar promise,” the report said.

Environmental Battles

Silva resigned from Lula’s cabinet in 2008 after losing environmental battles to business interests. She spent her childhood tapping rubber trees in the Amazon rain forest and worked as a maid before entering politics.

Serra, the former governor of Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous state, is running as a member of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party. He pledges to expand the economy in a “sustainable way” and said Brazil must no longer be the nation with the highest interest rates in the world and the biggest tax burden among developing nations.

Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who was Lula’s former Cabinet chief, has pledged continuity with her mentor’s policies that helped lift 21 million out of poverty since 2003. Latin America’s biggest economy will grow 7.3 percent this year, the most in more than two decades, according to central bank estimates.

Abortion Question

Rousseff’s remarks that abortion is a “public health issue” rather than a religious one may have been decisive in pushing the election to a second round, said Rafael Cortez, a political scientist at Tendencias Consultoria Integrada in Sao Paulo. Rousseff made the comments in a July TV interview, and the comment led to criticism from church groups, which took it to imply support for liberalization of Brazil’s abortion laws.

Religion is likely to play a larger role in the second round as both candidates try to appeal to voters who backed Silva, an evangelical Christian who prays daily on the campaign trail, said Alexandre Barros, president of Brasilia-based political risk analysis firm Early Warning.

“Evangelicals have been a political force for a long time in congressional elections, but never before for the executive,” Barros said in a telephone interview.

(Corrects spelling of Raymond James Latin America SA in 15th paragraph. Story first published Oct. 5.)
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