Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On the ballot

Attended two seminar yesterday related to elections. The first was at the ODI where George Philip (LSE), Victor Bulmer-Thomas and Duncan Green (Oxfam) all spoke about the Latin American elections. Is it a turn to the left and if so is it substantial or only skin deep. I managed to arrive late and missed George's contribution. But the general impression given was that while macro-economic policy won't change, there's the possibility of reform in social policy by these governments as well as the now obvious comment that Venezuela's Chavez and Chile's Bachelet are different creatures.

Duncan Green drew on Francisco Panizza's typology of the contemporary Left, claiming that there are three models: the liberal-republican, social movement-based and populist. A government or party can occupy more than one model and fluctuate according to their experience. Consequently, Brazil's PT and Uruguay's Frente Amplio may have been labelled as social movement-based but are probably now liberal-republican (like Bachelet). Where then, does Morales in Bolivia sit? He comes from the social movement Left, but will he govern like that? Or will he end up like Lula and the PT? Furthermore, will Bolivia go the way of Ecuador, where social and indigenous movements ended up splitting with 'their' government?

The other contibition to note about the ODI seminar was Bulmer-Thomas's observation that economic paradigms in Latin America generally last about 50 years - which means we're currently halfway through the current model. So don't expect any major changes yet.

I left early to catch a bus to Oxford for the Brazil Centre's seminar on the Brazilian elections. The panel consisted of Leslie Bethell (who always has a few good anecdotes up his sleeve), Jairo Nicolau (a renowned political scientist in Brazil), Tim Power and Leany Barreiro Lemos (a visiting research associate and legislative advisor in the Senate in Brasilia).

The general consensus was that Lula looks like he'll win. Although he hasn't declared yet, his polls have recovered after the corruption scandals and Alckmin, the main challenger, hasn't made a dent in his numbers yet. Power (loosely) likened Lula to Reagan as a hands-off, teflon-like president. Interesting though, Jairo showed that Lula's support has fallen among the richer classes and that his base is now among the poorer sections of society. This means that if Garotinho gets the PMDB nomination he could create problems for Lula, since he's drawing the same sort of support. It also means that the suggested impeachment of Lula probably won't go through, since the poor will think it's the political class trying to get 'our man'.

Also notable is the feeling in Brazil that Lula does better without the PT - hence his distancing himself from the party. That made me ask a question about a post-Lula PT in 2010. If Lula wins now, what happens then? The interesting thing about all the scandal last year was how it swept away the group behind Lula, from whom one might have expected his successor to have been groomed. And former finance minister, Palocci, is just the latest case.

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