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Lula set to retain Brazil presidency
With four months to go until Brazil's general election, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the president, is in a comfortable lead and would win, according to the latest polls.
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2006 18:54 GMT
Polls say Lula would take 54% if the election were held today
With four months to go until Brazil's general election, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the president, is in a comfortable lead and would win, according to the latest polls.

Lula, as he is known, was elected in 2002 to become the first working class president of South America's largest country.

He would take 54% of the votes if the election were held today, and serve a second term until 2010, polls indicate.

His only rival, Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, who held power for eight years prior to Lula's victory, would gain 23% of the vote, not enough to take the polls to a second round runoff.
 
All this despite Lula's government being mired for the past year in the worst corruption scandal in more than a decade, with his Workers' Party accused of having paid $12,500 in monthly bribes to deputies in allied parties in exchange for their support in passing bills. 
 
Survivor

Lula heads to October's vote as the only surviving high-profile member of his 25 year-old party after the corruption scandal cost the jobs of the party's president, treasury minister, chief of staff and secretary-general, among many others.
 
The accusations cut deep because the Workers' Party was seen as a beacon of transparency in a country dogged by a terrible history of high-level corruption. 
 
Lula, who says he did not know anything of the bribery, has been helped by the fact that rival Alckmin, the former governor of Sao Paulo, is largely unknown outside Brazil's biggest state and is not regarded as a political heavyweight.
 
Last week Alckmin accused Lula of protecting his "40 thieves", in reference to the 40 parliamentarians accused by the attorney-general of involvement in what is known as the "mensalao", or big monthly, scandal.

The theme is likely to be the lynchpin of his campaign.
 
But 19 members of five political parties accused of receiving bribes in exchange for votes are already campaigning for re-election.

A year into the crisis, only three parliamentarians have been stripped of their power.
 
The trade union council, the landless farmers' union and the national union of students say they will hold a demonstration in favour of Lula's re-election in June.

But the union members are not all behind the president. Many will opt to support Heliosa Helena, who after being thrown out of the Workers' Party for voting against the government, will stand for president using a new party vehicle, the PSOL. Polls give her 7% of the vote.

Poverty-stricken northeast

Lula's roots are in the traditionally poor northeast, where he has concentrated his major social programme, Bolsa-Familia, which gives financial help to those earning little.

Some 72 million Brazilians do not
have 'food security'

This is reflected in the regional polls, which give Lula 60% and Alckmin just 12%.
 
But Brazil still has 72 million people who are classified as having "food insecurity", who in other words, do not know where their next meal is coming from.

Fourteen million are starving and six million live on less than a dollar a day, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics in May.

The country's income distribution is also one of the worst in the world.

Lula, however, can say that this is a situation he inherited and is trying to improve.
 
"I know there are people who would like that none of this is happening, that would like inflation at 30%, that Brazilian exports weren't growing, that the International Monetary Fund was battering on my door every day, that I didn't increase the minimum salary, that jobs were not growing, but unfortunately for them, all of this is happening in this country, " Lula told a rally in northeast last week.
 
Brazil's largest political party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, announced at its conference in May that it would not field a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.
 
Despite controlling seven states and two capitals, the party is seen to have lost its way and has no formal alliance with any other party.
 
Hunger strike protest

Its highest profile leader, Anthony Garotinho, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, held an 11 day hunger strike leading up to the conference to protest against media "lies", in what many saw as a failed attempt to force his candidacy.

But polls show the hunger strike back-fired. He has dropped from 15% to just 7% in a month, according to the polls. 
 

A Brazil World Cup win could
boost Lula's re-election bid

He is now pushing a new plan to stand as vice-president to Pedro Simon.

Also expected to throw his hat into the ring is Itamar Franco, the former president who led the country from 1992 to 1994, after his predecessor Fernando Collor de Mellor fled to Miami during a trial for his impeachment over missing billions from government coffers.
 
The party will only decide at the last possible moment whether to field a candidate before the cut-off date on June 30. 
 
Lula, who can only stand for one more term according to Brazilian electoral law, is expected to launch his re-election bid on June 15 in the middle of Brazil's football World Cup campaign.

If the national team wins the Cup for a record sixth time, the feel good factor alone could seal a Workers' Party victory in October.

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