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Cablegate: Brazil: Local Elections: Lots of Heat, Little Light

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RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #0813/01 1651832
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131832Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1877
INFO RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 8138
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 2217
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 6263
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5578
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 7396
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6858
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0377
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 000813

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV BR
SUBJECT: Brazil: Local elections: Lots of Heat, Little Light

REF: A) Sao Paulo 285, B) Brasilia 674

1. (SBU) Summary. Campaigning for October 5 municipal elections is
getting underway with much media attention and political jockeying
but the results will have almost no bearing on national politics.
About a fifth of the 513 federal deputies are running for mayor, and
the Chamber of Deputies will get much less than usual business done
from July through election day on October 5. Over 5000 towns and
cities across Brazil will elect mayors and city councils but only
two races are nationally significant: Sao Paulo (ref A) and Belo
Horizonte. The Sao Paulo race could propel one candidate, Marta
Suplicy, toward a 2010 presidential bid, and the Belo Horizonte race
could strengthen the presidential chances of Aecio Neves, the
governor of Minas Gerais state. End summary.

Congressional Slowdown

2. (SBU) So many congressmen, about a fifth of the 513 federal
deputies, run for mayor every four years that the three months
before local elections are called a "white recess," that is, a long,
unofficial recess in which little work is done even though Congress
is in session. Those who win will be replaced by their alternates,
many of whom will be completely inexperienced in legislative work.
The result could be an increase in congressional inefficiency,
possibly worsening congress's already poor public image. In some
cases the outgoing members of congress are prominent leaders. In
Porto Alegre, for example, four federal deputies are running for
mayor, including Onyx Lorenzoni, chairman of the agriculture
committee and an influential leader of the opposition Democrats
Party.

Sao Paulo

3. (SBU) Tourism Minister Marta Suplicy resigned on June 5 to run
for mayor of Sao Paulo (ref A) and if she wins, she could decide to
run for president. She would have to defeat Dilma Rousseff, chief
of the Civilian Household and President Lula's current favorite, for
the Workers' Party (PT) presidential nomination (ref B). The Sao
Paulo race could also poison the national alliance between Social
Democrats (PSDB, opposition) and Democrats (DEM, opposition). A
PSDB faction led by Governor Jose Serra, a leading 2010 presidential
contender, supports the reelection of the incumbent DEM mayor, who
was Serra's deputy when he was mayor and has faithfully implemented
Serra's policies. Another faction supports the party's own
candidate, Geraldo Alckmin. The Alckmin-Serra split in the PSDB
could cause significant fallout both within the party and in its
alliance with the DEM, whose support is important in 2010.

Belo Horizonte

4. (SBU) In Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, the second
most populous state, Mayor Fernando Pimentel (PT) has tried to ally
his party with the PSDB of Governor Aecio Neves in support of a
candidate from another party, but has been repeatedly blocked by the
PT's national leadership. A successful PSDB-PT alliance could help
both the governor and the mayor in 2010: Neves may run for president
and Pimentel for governor, but the PT leadership is trying to
prevent anything that would strengthen Neves because as a
presidential candidate he would run against the PT. The issue is
still unresolved.

Rio de Janeiro

5. (SBU) Interestingly, the local elections in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil's second largest city, have little national importance. Rio
de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral (Brazilian Democratic
Movement Party, PMDB, government coalition) has consolidated his
power base in the state and marginalized current city mayor Cesar
Maia (DEM). Cabral was seen to be building a coalition to support
his expected bid for the presidency in either 2010 or 2014, but he
recently backtracked on his support for the local PT candidate
(after pressure from his own PMDB and threats of a split within the
party) and is now pressing the PMDB to support his former secretary
for sports and tourism as the party's candidate. Of interest to the
USG is that Federal Deputy Fernando Gabeira (Green Party), currently
polling third in the mayoral race, participated in the 1969
kidnapping of U.S. Ambassador Charles Elbrick. (Note: Gabeira has
publicly reversed his position and now condemns kidnapping. End
note.)

Marriages of Convenience

6. (SBU) Local alliances different from the national

BRASILIA 00000813 002 OF 002


government-opposition fault line are normal and, according to Andre
Miranda of the PATRI consulting firm, they have nothing to do with
future national alliances. They are formed for political
convenience, and demonstrate the insignificance of ideology in local
alliances. Often a party or candidate may seek support from another
party because of the vote-getting power of a locally powerful
politician who can get out the vote. There is always a quid pro
quo, sometimes overt, sometimes hidden.

Comment

7. (SBU) Municipal elections generate a lot of heat but little
light: they are not a good predictor of outcomes of the next
national elections, and they do not bring voter concerns or grand
themes into relief the way national elections do. The elections may
indicate whether Marta Suplicy has a chance to run for president in
2010, whether Aecio Neves can increase his national appeal and
presidential chances by allying locally with adversaries, and
whether Jose Serra will find himself weakened as a result of the
rebuff from within his own party, which could affect his current
2010 front-runner status. Local elections also provide an
opportunity for young talent to emerge, and Mission will report
significant developments. But despite the cacophony of thousands of
electoral campaigns, they tell us little else.

SOBEL

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