Cablegate: Pt and Psdb Gain Strength in Brazilian State Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A




1. (U) Polls are leaning towards a PSDB win for mayor in
Florianopolis, the capital of the southern Brazilian state
of Santa Catarina. The PSDB candidate, Dario Berger, has a
16 point lead over PP/PFL candidate, Chico Assis. State
Governor Luiz Henrique da Silva (PMDB) has endorsed Berger
and other PSDB candidates; however, looking towards the 2006
elections, the Santa Catarina PMDB will have to choose
whether these alliances will continue to be advantageous for
the party. As elsewhere in Brazil, the PT and PSDB have
both gained political ground at the municipal level in Santa
Catarina, acquiring both additional mayorships and city
council members. Nevertheless, Santa Catarina traditionally
has a conservative electorate and the PMDB and PP are still
the leading parties in the state. As the October 3
elections showed in several cities, elected positions tend
to rotate among political parties, particularly after one
party has held a position for eight years. The PT lost
Blumenau to the PFL after eight years of governing, and the
PP is likely to lose Florianopolis for the same reason - the
voters want a change. End Summary.

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2. (U) Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) candidate
Dario Berger continues to lead in the polls for the mayoral
election of Santa Catarina state capital Florianopolis.
Berger won 35 percent of the vote in the October 3 first
round and now faces conservative Progressive Party (PP)
candidate Chico Assis, in the second round runoff on October
31. A recent poll shows Berger leading 47-31 percent.
Despite Berger's big lead, political commentators have not
called the race yet, in part because Berger, who was mayor
of the neighboring city Sao Jose for the past eight years,
is seen both as something of a carpetbagger and a fresh face
who might be able to energize the city. Some 60 percent of
Florianopolis's population is not originally from the city,
and therefore purportedly not averse to voting for an
"outsider" candidate. Berger has also picked-up the support
of Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) Governor Luiz
Henrique da Silva, and some of the smaller parties.

4. (U) Chico Assis is strongly associated with incumbent
mayor Angela Amin (PP), who after eight years in power still
has 72 percent approval ratings. The Liberal Front Party
(PFL) and Democratic Labor Party (PDT) are also supporting
Assis. The Workers' Party (PT) declared that it will not
support either candidate, and instead is urging voters to
leave their ballots blank. In the past it has been
difficult for incumbents or their handpicked successors to
win election in Florianopolis. Assis will face an uphill
battle in the last two weeks of the campaign.


5. (U) As elsewhere in Brazil, the amorphous/centrist PMDB
continues to hold the most city halls in Santa Catarina with
115, up one from 2000. The party joined PSDB-led coalitions
in the commercial centers of Joinville and Sao Jose and is
now supporting the PSDB candidate in Florianopolis. That
support from the PMDB likely contributed to the success that
the PSDB enjoyed in the first round. The PSDB increased the
number of city halls it controls from 19 to 25. However, as
a political editor of the "Diario Catarinense", the state's
main newspaper, noted, the party's growth has been very
localized within Santa Catarina, and it is not yet a
statewide force. One of the party's most significant
strongholds is Joinville, where the PSDB candidate, Marco
Tebaldi, was reelected in the first round. Tebaldi served
as Luiz Henrique's vice-mayor in Joinville before Luiz
Henrique was elected governor in 2002. The Governor
reportedly invested a great deal of political capital in
Tebaldi's re-election instead of running a PMDB candidate.

6. (U) Also reflecting the nationwide trend, President
Lula's PT gained the most numerically in Santa Catarina this
year, increasing its mayorships from 13 to 24. The PT has
enjoyed a steady growth in Santa Catarina, going from seven
city halls in 1996 to 13 in 2000. The PT's stronghold is in
the poorer western region of the state, populated mainly by
small farmers. The PT maintains strong ties with the
Catholic Church and the Landless Movement (MST) in that
region. The PT has the largest caucus in the state
legislature, with nine of the 40 seats.

7. (U) The conservative PP and PFL parties each lost city
halls in Santa Catarina on October 3. The PP went from
running 73 to 70, while the PFL decreased from 58 to 43.
The PFL's power is concentrated in the center of the state,
dominated by large rural estates.

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8. (SBU) In this month's elections, incumbent PMDB Governor
Luiz Henrique formed coalitions, which cut across the lines
of his party's alliances at the national level and in other
southern states. (Note: at the national level, the PMDB is
part of Lula's PT-led coalition, while the PSDB and PFL lead
the opposition bloc. End Note.) Most significantly, he has
strongly backed PSDB candidates in cities where the PMDB did
not have its own candidates in the race. A member of the
PMDB state directorate told Poloff that there is dissent
among the party leadership over the Governor's alliances.
She said that many party members feel that Luis Henrique has
gotten too close to the PSDB, noting that the party failed
to even run candidates in key cities like Florianopolis and
Joinville. In many of the state's western municipalities,
the PMDB shares power with the PT, i.e., PT mayors with PMDB
vice-mayors or vice versa.

9. (SBU) State legislature caucus leaders from both the PT
and PSDB recognize that Luis Henrique's alliances are purely
of convenience. PT State Deputy Pedro Baldissera noted that
the PMDB only forms coalitions with the PT in regions where
the PMDB is weak. He remarked that the PT would have to
take a clear political stand, including on whether to
continue its alliances with the PMDB in the near future. A
Diario Catarinense political editor told us the same thing,
noting that the PT needs to clarify its identity as a party
and how the party plans to deal with its links to the MST
and the workers confederation, CUT, as well as to other

10. (U) The 2006 governor's race is bound to be contentious.
Luis Henrique plans to run for reelection for the PMDB.
PSDB State Deputy and Caucus Leader Jorginho Mello told us
that PSDB Senator Leonel Pavan would be the party's
candidate for governor in 2006. Political experts speculate
that incumbent Florianopolis mayor, Angela Amin, will run
for governor for the PP. (Note: Amin's husband, Esperidao
Amin, was governor of Santa Catarina from 1999 until 2003.
End Note.) The PT plans to run an as yet unidentified
candidate. Potentially complicating the parties' political
strategizing even further over the next two years, Senator
Jorge Bornhausen's (PFL) seat will be open in the 2006
elections, and the powerful senator's intentions have not
been announced.


11. (U) Politics in Santa Catarina are multifaceted and full
of intrigue. Soon after the 2004 municipal elections wind
down, political maneuvering in preparation for the 2006
gubernatorial and senatorial elections will begin. The
governor's seat will be highly contested and the PSDB views
2006 as an opportunity to strengthen its position in the
state and nationally. The center-left PSDB and PT parties
made the most advances in numerical terms in this year's
municipal contests, while the conservative PP and PFL
parties, which have traditionally shared political dominance
in the state with the PMDB, lost several cities in the
interior of the state. A PP loss to the PSDB in
Florianopolis could indicate the beginnings of a shift in
political power in the state. However, it is not apparent
that any clear lessons can be drawn from the outcome of this
year's municipal elections here, in particular about the
likely impact on the 2006 gubernatorial and presidential
elections. Santa Catarina will likely continue to produce
politicians of national importance, but due to its small
population, it will continue to have only limited impact on
the outcome of national elections. End Comment.

12. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Brasilia.


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