Brazil votes in election defined by sleaze

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by ghostrider, Oct 1, 2006.

  1. ghostrider

    ghostrider Resident Poltergeist Founding Member

    Brazil votes in election defined by sleaze <!-- END HEADLINE -->
    <!-- BEGIN STORY BODY -->By Angus MacSwan 2 hours, 48 minutes ago

    SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazilians voted in elections on Sunday with signs that public disgust over sleazy politics might prevent President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from securing the outright victory that seemed a foregone conclusion until a few weeks ago.
    The past few days have seen a dramatic turn-around as opposition candidates flayed Lula, the champion of Brazil's poor, over corruption scandals surrounding his Workers' Party.
    "Lula disappointed me," said Luisa Pena, a 31-year-old artist who was jogging on Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema beach before going to cast her ballot. "He promised for so many years that he would put an end to corruption and there's been more scandals in his government than in the previous."
    More than 125 million Brazilians are voting, from hamlets in the Amazon to the skyscrapers of Sao Paulo and the violent slums of Rio de Janeiro to the prosperous southern farmlands.
    Until two weeks ago, former factory worker Lula had been cruising to re-election with polls showing he would take an absolute majority in the first round against seven other candidates, thus avoiding a two-horse second round.
    But revelations that his campaign staff tried to buy information for a smear campaign against his main challenger Geraldo Alckmin gave a lackluster opposition new ammunition.
    It also reminded voters of a string of bribery and vote-buying scandals which have cost Lula's chief of staff, his finance minister and other aides their jobs.
    Two polls on Saturday showed the vote could go to second round, meaning voters would go back to the ballot box on October 29. Although Lula is still expected to win eventually, that scenario would further polarize the country and make it harder for him to gain the consensus needed to pass reforms.
    "I'm confident we are going to win this election today," Lula said after voting in a school in his hometown, the industrial suburb of Sao Bernado do Campo.
    Support for the burly 60-year-old, who rose from union politics in a Sao Bernardo car factory to the leadership of the world's fourth-largest democracy, has been boosted by rising wages and social welfare programs that have benefited the ranks of poor in this country of 185 million people.
    Adelnilson Da Silva, 25, a recent migrant from the poor northeastern state of Pernambuco said he would vote for Lula.
    "He may be corrupt but he's the first president in my life that has helped poor people," Da Silva said, selling coconut juice at a Sao Paulo food market.
    But Douglas Leite, 34-year-old banana salesman, who had voted early said he would not pick Lula again.
    "I voted for Lula in the last election because he deserved a chance but not this time. He's messed up -- he's as dirty as the worst of them."
    Alckmin, the stiff, former governor of Brazil's richest state Sao Paulo, has promised to cut taxes and make conditions easier for investment.
    "Lula has already had his chance and Brazil cannot lose any more time. Ethics will win over corruption," Alckmin said as he cast his ballot in Sao Paulo with his wife at his side.
    As well as the presidential contest, Brazilians are voting for state governors, Congress and state assemblies. Lula could lose an already fragile majority in the lower house of Congress and face a larger opposition majority in the Senate.

    The ballot takes place as Brazilians mourn for the victims of the country's worst-ever air disaster. All 155 people on board are believed to have died in a passenger airliner that crashed in the Amazon jungle on Friday. It is Brazil's sixth presidential election since 21 years of military rule ended in 1985.
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