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Lula's party faces defeat in major cities

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-10-26

Right wing Sao Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab seems likely to win a bruising mayoral election in Brazil's economic capital against a Workers Party candidate backed by President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva. Large cities could fall to the opposition.

The incumbent mayor for Sao Paulo, Latin America's most economically vital city, looks likely to win a weekend run-off election against a rival put forward by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, according to polls.
   
Gilberto Kassab, a centre-right politician from the Democrats party, has a comfortable eight-point lead over Marta Suplicy, a former tourism minister in Lula's leftwing government, a poll published by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper Thursday showed.
   
The Sunday knockout election between the two is the main feature of local elections across Brazil, after the first round held October 5.
   
Although Lula allies swept most of the major towns in the first contest, the biggest cities -- Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Belem and Florianopolis -- were all to be decided by run-offs between the two top candidates.
   
Suplicy's political fortunes could ride on the result. She is seen as a possible successor to Lula, who has to stand down at the end of 2010 after serving two terms as one of Brazil's most popular presidents.
   
The campaign fight between the two candidates was characteristically boisterous, but hit a low point a couple of weeks ago when Suplicy played on speculation that Kassab was gay by highlighting the fact the 48-year-old was single and without children.
   
Kassab, who denied he was homosexual, won a court judgement that saw Suplicy forced to run apologies on television, in her alloted campaign advertising slots.
   
The incumbent mayor's most notable act since first taking office two years ago was to ban billboard advertising in Sao Paulo. He has made little headway in solving Sao Paulo's chronic and worsening traffic congestion, however.
   
It was far from certain that the fight over Rio would boost the fortunes of Lula's ruling coalition either.
   
There a former guerrilla running for the Green Party but with backing from opposition center-right and rightwing parties, Fernando Gabeira, is neck-and-neck with the incumbent centrist supported by Lula, Eduardo Paes.
   
Brazil's third-biggest city, Belo Horizonte, could also fall into the hands of the opposition, according to voter-intention surveys.
 

Date created : 2008-10-26

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