Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Speculation starts

His body not yet even cold, already speculation has begun over what Briola's death means for the future of his Democratic Workers Party (PDT). This Folha de Sao Paulo story suggests that without him leading the charge the party may well realign itself with Lula's governing coalition in Congress. Brizola had pulled out his support from Lula back in December when one of the PDT ministers left the government.

However, several hundred PDT supporters barracked Lula when he went to pay his respects at Brizola's coffin in Rio yesterday. Whichever direction the PDT takes, it's going to leave some people unhappy.

The Jornal do Brasil has an article this morning, 'Sem Brizola, PDT perde o rumo politico' (Without Brizola, the PDT loses its political direction) in which the different routes now facing the party are presented. A political scientist, Geraldo Tadeu Monteiro, claims that the PDT can't survive without Brizola and could find itself incorporated under another banner, perhaps that of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB).

But the Sergipe senator, Almeida Lima, argues that 'His death could help strengthen the workers' movement.' He doesn't think now is the time for the PDT to start debating its future and argues that the party could invite a politician to be its presidential candidate in 2006 (which Brizola was intimating he wanted to do months before his death). Lima cites Garotinho, Ciro Gomes and Tasso Jereissati as those who could possibly be the party'scandidatee.

In my opinion - and for what it's worth - this shows up the weakness of the PDT without Brizola and the degree of fluidity within Brazilianpoliticss. It is common for politicians to join one party, get elected on that ticket and then swap for another party. Garotinho is just one example of this, having been elected Rio's governor in 1998 for the PDT, falling out with Brizola, joining the PSB and then moving to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party or PMDB (a catch-all party with no distinct ideology one way or the other).

And is it possible that Garotinho is already positioning himself for a possible return for 2006? In the Jornal do Brasil article he claims that Brizola's death 'won't destroy the PDT as some think. When I left the PSB my heart wanted to go to the PDT.'

If senior pedetistas (members of the PDT) are of the opinion that a politician can be brought in to lead the party, then the PDT will suffer. If a politician is bigger than his party then the prospect of stronger party identification by both politicians and the electorate will continue to be a distant dream. And putting the PDT up for the highest bidder risks taking the party in a different direction - and confusing the voters in the long run.

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