Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Lula's fall - major crisis or expected slump?

Hot on the heels of this week's Economist, come figures from Ibope showing Lula's fall in the polls. But even though the percentage who think the Government is doing a good job has fallen 17 points to 34% in the last year, those thinking he's doing an OK job haven't shifted much.

Initially, the figures show a high degree of uniformity, across all regions and socio-economic groups.

But looking at the figures closely, expectations about personal income remain roughly the same as a year ago, although there have been concerns about rising inflation and unemployment in the last six months.

And there seems to be quite a bit of churning about what the Government's priorities should be. At first glance the current poll suggests Lula's main task should be to reduce taxes and inflation. But these priorities have slumped over the last year, by three and five points to 31% and 33% to 28% respectively. Meanwhile those who think the Government should help those who want to open a business has risen by three points to 27% and those who want Government to cut spending by five points to 26%.

Although much of the public notice of Lula in the news has revolved around the reverberations from the Waldormio Diniz case (an aide who was shown to have taken bribes) and the decision to stop bingos (and their relationship to money laundering), contrary to the Economist's claims, internal criticism by Lula's governing party over his economic policies don't seem to have made much of a dent.


Ninety percent of those polled don't know what Lula's industrial policy is and the news coverage of Workers Party criticism, Mercosur and IMF relations made little headway. But if the public start to pay more attention to comments by Lula's supposed allies in Congress, and given the Workers Party tendency to wash its dirty laundry in public, this could become a poisonous combination.

But while the public pay more attention to the bingo-money laundering story, the public generally seems to approve of the Government's response, by 53% to 39%. And perhaps Lula might be able to bounce back with similar responses in the near future.

So 'Lula slips from a small scandal to a major crisis'? Despite the Economist smacking its lips at the prospect, I don't think so. Rather, Lula and his government are becoming ordinary, just as Tony Blair and New Labour's focus on delivery took the sheen off all that was promising and shiny.

But watch out for the Workers Party's self-destruct button when the going really gets tough.

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