Tuesday, July 06, 2004

More of the same?

Ibope's latest poll would seem to indicate that the Workers Party's (PT) candidate in Porto Alegre, Raul Pont, should have an easier time of re-election than his colleague in Sao Paulo, Marta Suplicy.

As the current mayor, he not only benefits from being the most well-known of the candidates. Ibope asked the public two variations on the same question. Reminding them of elections in October, they were asked who they would vote for from the following list of candidates; Pont topped the poll with 12%, 8 points ahead of his nearest rival. A second, similar question was asked, dispensing with the October reminder and asking who the public would vote for if the elections were today; again, Pont won, with 28%, compared to 17% for Jose Fogaca.

Pont also has the advantage of being the latest to be in charge of a long line of PT administrations in the city, going back to 1989. But the poll indicates that despite this, Pont would face a run-off, most likely against Fogaca. And here the findings make for interesting reading.

Overall Pont would edge Fogaca out, by 42% to 40%. But Fogaca wins out among male voters, young and old voters (16-24 and over 50), those with only primary education and middle school and the wealthy (i.e. incomes equal to more than 10 minimum salaries). Pont and the PT will therefore not only have to rouse their core supporters - those on low incomes - but also those in other social sectors. But given the overwhelming preoccupation of voters with health and education, this may well be the card the PT can play in their defence.

Yet in contrast to the past, there hangs a question mark above this particular election; never before has the PT defended Porto Alegre while it has been in power in Brasilia. And with the media pumping out news about the government's ongoing struggles and challenges far away, how will that play out and affect Pont's chances?

Then again, it may have no impact. Olivio Dutra, a former mayor and subsequent governor of the state, Rio Grande do Sul, lost in 2002 - at the same time that Lula won the presidency. But the reasons for his defeat had less to do with the way gauchos saw the PT and more to do with his failure to ensure jobs in the state (following a well-reported episode in 1999 when Ford decided to relocate to Bahia).

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