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Cablegate: Brazil: Local Elections an Early Signal of Top

VZCZCXRO8291
OO RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #1320/01 2771953
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031953Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2593
INFO RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 8546
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 2864
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 6710
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5855
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 7558
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 7114
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0629
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 001320

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: LOCAL ELECTIONS AN EARLY SIGNAL OF TOP
PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS

REFS: A) SAO PAULO 225, B) SAO PAULO 285, C) SAO PAULO 338, D)
BRASILIA 1290, E) BRASILIA 813

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 5, Brazilians will elect mayors and
city council members in all cities except Brasilia. It is
increasingly looking like the results will define the 2010
presidential election as a contest between Dilma Rousseff (PT), the
president's chief of staff and clear favorite, against Jose Serra
(PSDB Governor of Sao Paulo). Analysts consider the Sao Paulo and
Belo Horizonte mayoral elections to be bellwethers of the strength
of Governor Serra and Minas Gerais Governor Aecio Neves, the two
likely presidential contenders in 2010 national elections from the
opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). Marta Suplicy,
of the Workers Party (PT, lead party in the governing coalition),
running for mayor of Sao Paulo and often cited as a possible PT
presidential candidate, will see her presidential chances dashed if
she loses the Sao Paulo race. Analysts expect the PT to win more
key mayorships than any other party, an additional boost for the
PT's prospects in 2010. The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party
(PMDB, a non-ideological party currently in the governing coalition
but often a presidential kingmaker) will do well in small towns and
have the most mayors overall. End summary.

Sao Paulo: Defining Moment for PSDB's Presidential Contenders

2. (SBU) In the Sao Paulo contest (refs A, B, C), polling shows
Marta Suplicy going to the second round (which, for all races in
which a candidate does not achieve over 50 percent of the vote, will
be on October 26). Incumbent mayor Gilberto Kassab (Democrats -
DEM, opposition) has a slight edge against former Sao Paulo Governor
Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) for the runoff slot against her. Kassab is
allied with Serra, and Alckmin with Neves. The Democrats and the
PSDB are national allies, and ideologically close enough that the
first round victor, whether Kassab or Alckmin, will pick up the
other's votes in round two, probably giving him a victory over
Suplicy. According to political analyst Thiago de Aragao of Arko
Advice, a Kassab victory would settle the PSDB's internal struggle
over its 2010 presidential nominee in Serra's favor, while an
Alckmin victory would strengthen Neves but not necessarily ensure
his presidential nomination in 2010. Andre Miranda of the PATRI
consulting firm agreed that a Kassab win gives Serra the PSDB
candidacy in 2010. Miranda also noted that, even though Suplicy's
presidential chances could be boosted by winning, President Lula's
clear favorite to run as the PT's candidate is Dilma Rousseff and
she would still have to overcome that obstacle.

Belo Horizonte: Candidate of PT/PSDB Alliance Will Win
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) In Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state, where
Neves is the incumbent governor, polls show Neves-backed candidate
Marcio Lacerda poised to win the mayoral race (ref D). But the
PSDB's roots and base are in Sao Paulo and, according to Arko's
Aragao, a Lacerda victory would not bolster Neves enough to overcome
the boost Serra would get from a Kassab victory over Geraldo Alckmin
and Marta Suplicy. Aragao said many in the PSDB think it is Serra's
time to be elected president in 2010, while Neves still has his
future before him. Similarly, many politicians believe Neves
eventually will be president of Brazil, only not yet. Some
observers, Aragao said, are speculating about a Serra-Neves slate,
but only if Neves moves to the PMDB, which would bring Brazil's
largest political party behind Serra.

PT Will Do Well Nationwide
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) A polling compilation published in leading daily Folha de
S. Paulo predicted the PT would win 33 of the 79 most important
cities, which would indicate substantial PT strength going into the
2010 elections. Aragao and Miranda both noted that President Lula,
who now enjoys a public approval rating as high as 80 percent, has a
great ability to "transfer" votes to his favorite candidates.
Candidates in the governing coalition make extensive use of Lula's
image in campaign materials because of Lula's phenomenal
"vote-pulling" ability; Lula's support for Marta Suplicy's candidacy
may help her beat the odds and win in Sao Paulo.

Political Sideshows: Rio, Salvador, Porto Alegre, Recife
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (SBU) Outside the key races for 2010, a number of interesting
sideshows may have broader implications down the road. In Brazil's

BRASILIA 00001320 002 OF 002


second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro, the focus has been on the
stationing of military troops in the large favelas (slums) in an
effort to prevent gangs from influencing the vote. In the
northeast, DEM Federal Deputy Antonio Carlos Magalhaes Neto ("ACM
Neto"), grandson of the late giant of Bahia politics "ACM," is
nearly tied in a three-way race for mayor of Salvador against a PT
candidate and a PMDB candidate. An ACM Neto victory would reassert
his family's leading position in Bahia politics and weaken Bahia
Governor Jaques Wagner (PT), sporadically mentioned as a possible PT
presidential candidate in 2010. The Recife mayoral race has taken
an odd turn with the disqualification of the PT candidate, who
nonetheless is likely to win in the first round. In the key
southern city of Porto Alegre, a stronghold of the PT's
intelligentsia, stalwarts, and radicals, the PT's mayoral candidate,
Federal Deputy Maria do Rosario, is polling poorly and may not make
it to the second round. Aragao said this would be an "historic
defeat."

6. (SBU) Comment: Although each of the nearly 5,600 municipal races
that will be decided by the end of October will have important
implications for local governance, at a national level all eyes are
on 2010. Although Serra and Neves may make personal gains, the PT
is likely to demonstrate continuing broad-based strength which,
added to Lula's popularity, would present a formidable asset for the
eventual PT candidate. Largely buried in the election politicking
is the fact that, only 20 years after the re-establishment of
democracy in Brazil, the vote itself is considered a mundane affair,
generally free of serious corruption concerns.


SOBEL

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