Friday, August 13, 2004

What's at stake

Interesting piece here by the left-wing academic, Emir Sader regarding the risks for the governing Workers Party (PT) in the upcoming elections (and what a relief to escape the vacuous comments being made by the candidates!).

The Sao Paulo mayoral election is important to the party because of its national projection. The contest is between the PT and the Social Democrats (PSDB), who had control of the national government until two years ago. A good showing here would help towards boosting the PT's image in the presidential and congressional elections two years from now.

The other important election is that in Porto Alegre. The poll figures which I analysed there a few weeks ago are good for the PT. And the role that Porto Alegre has played in the development of the party cannot be over-estimated. It is was here that the idea for which the party became distinctive came into being: the participatory budget. Porto Alegre is also the centre of the movements which spawned the World Social Forum, the anti-globalisation network, and the militant Landless Peasants Movement (MST).

But whereas Sao Paulo offers a moderate, soft-left image of the PT, that in Porto Alegre has tended to be associated with a stronger, more radical version. If the PT were to lose Sao Paulo, but keep Porto Alegre, then the mayor of the latter city would become the second most important PT office holder after Lula himself. It would give the left of the party a greater voice than it's previously had. And it may well make the party more distinctive than it is now.

But whatever the result in Sao Paulo, if Porto Alegre is (inconceivably) lost, that could end its experience of innovative governance and the symbolism of the various ideals and projects attached to the party within the city.

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