Primer: Brazilian Elections

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is headed to a runoff election Oct. 29 after winning the first round of Brazil's presidential election, but falling short of the majority of votes needed to win outright. More than 126 million Brazilians voted for president, governors for all 26 states and the federal district, all 513 federal deputies of the lower house and 27 of the 81 Senate seats.

Presidential Candidates

Lula da Silva

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 60, is current president and founder of the ruling Workers' Party (PT). Lula lost three presidential bids before defeating Jose Serra of the PSDB to win the 2002 election. A former metalworker and union leader, Lula holds vast appeal among Brazil's poor and working-class and has overseen moderate economic growth over his four-year term. Despite accusations of corruption, Lula has maintained a significant lead in polls throughout the campaign. | Campaign Web site »

Geraldo Alckmin

Geraldo Alckmin, 53, of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) resigned from his position as governor of Sao Paulo to run for president. A doctor by training, Alckmin is viewed as the favored candidate of Brazil's business community. He has pledged to foster economic growth through political and tax reforms. | Campaign Web site »


Frequently Asked Questions

» What happened in the first round of voting?

With 99 percent of polling places accounted for, Lula received about 48.7 percent of the votes; he needed more than 50 percent to win outright. Alckmin received about 41.6 percent.

» Who is likely to win the runoff?

Polls currently favor Lula to win the Oct. 29 runoff, though Alckmin supporters hope the ongoing corruption investigation will help his chances.

» What is the status of the campaign corruption scandal?

An investigation is ongoing into charges that members of Lula's Workers' Party allegedly attempted to purchase a dossier containing incriminating information about an opposition candidate. Lula fired his campaign manager just before the election and arrest warrants have been issued for six Workers' Party members. If Lula were found to have been involved in the scheme, the election results could be nullified and a new election called.

» What are the key campaign issues?

Corruption has been a major issue playing out in the Brazilian press. Allegations of wrongdoing over the last year forced the resignations of several of Lula's aides and members of his Workers' Party. More recently, his campaign manager resigned after charges surfaced that the campaign paid for damaging information about Lula's opponent.

The opposition has had a difficult time making an issue of the economy, which has improved under Lula. Despite his left-wing background, Lula has largely followed the macroeconomic policies of his more conservative predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Inflation is under 4 percent, foreign investment is up and Lula's Bolsa Familia welfare program has proved popular. Still, Brazil's overall economic growth is below average for Latin American countries and some critics say more tax, labor and social justice reforms are needed.

Though crime rates in the state of Sao Paulo have fallen under Alckmin's leadership, a wave of gang-related violence has hurt his standing in the polls.

» What type of government does Brazil have?

Brazil has a democratic government with separate executive, legislative and judicial branches. A bicameral congress is made up of a Senate and Chamber of Deputies; 81 senators serve eight-year terms and 513 deputies (elected proportionally by state) serve four-year terms. A new president is elected every four years and can be reelected once.

Sources: Staff and wire reports, U.S. Department of State, IFES, World Almanac, O Globo | Compiled by Amanda Zamora and Heather Farrell, washingtonpost.com

Major Political Parties

Logo: Workers' Party (PT) After leading a series of labor strikes in the late 1970s, Lula founded the leftist Workers' Party (PT) in 1980 and served as party president until 1987. The PT has been embroiled in scandal since June 2005, when several party officials resigned amid accusations that they illegally sought to buy votes in the National Congress. The affair led to the defection of many party members. The PT holds 82 of 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 12 of 81 seats in the Senate. Web site »

Logo: Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) The center-left Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) was founded in 1988 by members of the centrist PMDB seeking social and political reform. The party backed a coalition that brought Fernando Henrique Cardoso to power in 1994. It is one of Brazil's largest political parties, holding 54 of 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 15 of 81 seats in the Senate. Web site »

Logo: Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) The centrist Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) was founded in 1980 after the dissolution of the Brazilian Democratic Movement. By 1986, it was the largest political party in Brazil, with control of both chambers of the National Congress and 22 of 23 state governerships. Its influence has waned somewhat since 1998, when a leftist faction split to form the PSDB. Though it didn't field a presidential candidate in 2002 (instead backing PSDB candidate Jose Serra), the PMDB performed well in legislative elections. It currently holds 82 of 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 22 of 81 seats in the Senate. Web site »

Logo: Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) The leftist Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) was founded in 2004 by Heloisa Helena after her expulsion from the PT. It holds one seat in the Senate and seven seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Web site »

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