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Cablegate: Sao Paulo Mayor's Race: Kassab's Performance Solidifies

VZCZCXRO0118
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0536 2810826
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 070826Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8575
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 9706
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 4217
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8879
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3267
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3514
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2790
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2514
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3927
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC

UNCLAS SAO PAULO 000536

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR ECON BR
SUBJECT: SAO PAULO MAYOR'S RACE: KASSAB'S PERFORMANCE SOLIDIFIES
SERRA'S STATUS AS LIKELY PSDB CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT IN 2010

REF: A. Liston-Kelly e-mail, 10/6/08

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED--PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (U) Summary: DEM Party Sao Paulo incumbent Mayor Gilberto
Kassab's surprising first-place finish in first-round Sao Paulo
mayoral voting against PT candidate Marta Suplicy makes Kassab the
favorite for the October 26 second-round vote. Even more important,
Kassab's strong showing solidifies PSDB Governor Jose Serra's status
as favorite for the 2010 PSDB presidential nomination. Kassab's
come-from-behind campaign saw him outpoint Suplicy, who originally
led in the polling, and easily vanquish PSDB candidate Geraldo
Alckmin. Alckmin was backed by Serra PSDB rival and Minas Gerais
Governor Aecio Neves, whose prospects for the PSDB presidential
nomination have now dimmed. End Summary.

Kassab's Comeback

2. (U) DEM Party Sao Paulo incumbent Mayor Gilberto Kassab
surprisingly came out on top of first-round voting in Sao Paulo's
10/5 mayoral elections, narrowly edging out PT candidate Marta
Suplicy by a single percentage point (34 percent to 33 percent).
Just a few weeks ago, Kassab lagged far behind in polls which showed
him coming in third place, behind Suplicy and PSDB candidate Geraldo
Alckmin. A strong campaign combined with what most observers
acknowledge is Kassab's solid record as Mayor pulled him out in
front and now position him as the likely favorite to win the
mayorship of Brazil's largest city against PT candidate Suplicy in
second-round voting on 10/26. Kassab gains critical momentum from
this victory and is likely to be endorsed by the majority of the
other candidates.

Looking at 2010

3. (SBU) The Sao Paulo mayor's race is widely seen as a warm-up for
the 2010 presidential contest, with likely contenders fighting
through surrogates. Kassab enjoyed the support of PSDB Governor
Jose Serra, under whom he served as vice Mayor as part of a
coalition PSDB-DEM administration in the Sao Paulo municipality
before Serra's 2006 run for Governor. Encouraged by Minas Gerais
Governor Aecio Neves (who also has presidential ambitions), PSDB
candidate Geraldo Alckmin threw his hat in the ring. Alckmin
started off strong but then, following poor debate performances and
a lackluster campaign, wound up garnering only 22 percent of the
vote. Most of Alckmin's supporters will likely cast ballots for
Kassab in the final vote.

Serra Strengthened

4. (SBU) Kassab's performance clearly strengthens Serra's hand in
the PSDB, making him the clear favorite to be the party's 2010
presidential nominee. His rival, Neves, also suffered a reverse
when another political ally and candidate for the Mayor of Belo
Horizonte, Marcio Lacerda (PMDB), did not score a first-round
victory as anticipated. Lacerda advances to the second round.

5. (U) This cable was coordinated/cleared by Embassy Brasilia.

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