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Ruling party endorses female successor to Lula


Latest update : 2010-02-21

Brazil's ruling left-wing party has endorsed chief minister Dilma Rousseff as its candidate for presidential elections in October. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cannot run for a third term under the country's constitution.

REUTERS - President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's chief of staff on Saturday vowed to continue Brazil's investor-friendly economic policies if she won the Oct. 3 presidential race as the ruling Workers' Party candidate.

Speaking to the party's national convention in Brasilia after it formally endorsed her candidacy, Dilma Rousseff, 62, said she would maintain fiscal discipline, a free-floating exchange rate, and inflation targets -- the pillars of Lula's economic strategy.

"We will ensure macro-economic stability," Rousseff, a trained economist, told the party's delegates in the capital Brasilia. She added that she felt "totally prepared" to govern the country.

She would become the country's first female president, though two opinion polls released this month show her trailing conservative Sao Paulo state Governor Jose Serra of the opposition PSDB party by between 5 percent and 11 percent.

Lula, the most popular president in Brazil's recent history but prevented by law from running for a third consecutive term, said Rousseff's candidacy was not designed to hold his place for a possible return in 2014.

"I want her to win a second mandate," said Lula, a former union leader who virtually imposed Rousseff's candidacy on the Workers' Party that he founded 30 years ago. He said he chose her for her rigor, ethics and determination.

Brazil has during Lula's rule consolidated its position as one of the world's leading economies. It bounced back quickly from a brief recession last year and its economy is expected to grow by more than 5 percent this year.

The Workers' Party on Friday approved a campaign platform that proposes extending Lula's economic policies. But it also included proposals to expand the role of state enterprises, tax big wealth and expand social welfare programs.

Rousseff told chanting supporters that, as president, she would continue to expand the civil service despite warnings by opposition parties of the rising costs of maintaining a bloated and inefficient state bureaucracy.

Women vote

Lula, a union leader who rose from humble, working-class roots to the presidency, urged Brazilian women to support Rousseff in the election in an effort to battle deep-seated gender inequality in a country where few women have risen to high political office.

"Women are still treated like second-class citizens," Lula said.

His appeal resonated with some of the 3,000 delegates and others in attendance at the convention.

"It's high time for a woman president," said Cibele Figuereido, a 50-year old teacher and Rousseff supporter.

While an all-female percussion group gyrated its way through the flag-waving audience after Rousseff's speech, a small group of tattooed natives in traditional headdress protested against the government's Indian policy.

Rousseff must step down from her current post by April 3 in compliance with electoral law and will then have to negotiate with as many as 10 potential allied parties to forge a common campaign platform.

She said she wanted to continue working with Lula's current coalition, a group of 11 parties ranging from the far left to the political center.

"I want to form a government coalition," said Rousseff, who was a left-wing guerrilla militant during the country's 1964-85 military dictatorship.

Some analysts, however, say she lacks Lula's political savvy to manage often volatile party interests.

Unlike the folksy Lula, Rousseff is generally seen as uncharismatic and prone to technocratic speech, which pollsters say could lose her votes in a country where a candidate's personality may outweigh campaign issues.

"I think the biggest obstacle Dilma will face is that she lacks the ability to communicate with the people," said Romulo Carneiro, town mayor in the northeastern Ceara state.


Date created : 2010-02-21


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