Cardoso set to win race for Brazilian presidency: Inflation worries lie behind the centre-right candidate's poll lead, writes Elizabeth Nash

IF THE centre-right candidate for the presidency of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, wins an outright majority in today's elections, as expected, it will be because of his perceived success in achieving economic stability.

Among Brazilians, even the poor slum dwellers, beating inflation is the number one priority, ahead of social welfare, schools and even jobs. Since Mr Cardoso stepped down as finance minister in the summer to run for president, the economic plan he masterminded has brought inflation down from nearly 50 per cent a month in June to 2 per cent a month in September - the lowest in eight years.

From being 20 percentage points behind his main opponent, the left-wing former mechanical fitter from the factory floor, Luis Inacio 'Lula' da Silva, Mr Cardoso, 63, a former sociologist, was 23 points ahead at the weekend. But about 15 per cent of voters remain undecided, so it is still possible Mr da Silva could, as he claims, force a run-off in November.

It is not just a stable currency, the real, that has transformed Mr Cardoso's fortunes. Mr da Silva, 48, leader of the Socialist Workers' Party (PT), who was tipped as favourite only three months ago, did himself no favours when he denounced Mr Cardoso's economic plan as an electoral manoeuvre and, worse, offered no anti-inflation plan of his own.

Mr da Silva had been touted - even among the middle classes - as a possible saviour, following the sleaze that engulfed the political establishment under the rule of the right-wing, whizz-kid president, Fernando Collor de Mello, impeached for corruption in 1992. The right wing, demoralised and divided, calculated that none of its candidates had the charisma or moral authority to match Mr da Silva, a plain-speaking, astute union leader, on whom no hint of corruption could be pinned.

So they closed ranks - some would say, hid - behind Mr Cardoso, from the small reformist PSDB party, a man with good democratic credentials who had written the internationally renowned study Dependence and Development in Latin America while in exile in Chile during Brazil's military dictatorship in the late 1960s. Mr da Silva started to lose his lustre as Mr Cardoso's personal integrity and political moderation became evident. Working-class Brazilians, traditionally reluctant to elect one of their own to rule over them, were attracted. Mr da Silva was fatally slow to react.

Should Mr Cardoso win, his critics say, he will be trapped by his conservative allies, especially the far-right Liberal Front (PFL), the party of Mr Cardoso's running mate, Marco Maciel. The PFL's power base is in the impoverished regions of the north-east, where big landowners and powerful local bosses rule as they have done for more than a century. Mr Cardoso's reform plans, particularly his tentative gestures towards land reform will, many fear, be stifled.

The Da Silva camp is expected to increase its showing in Congress: the PT is predicted to return five senators - it has one at present - and its group of MPs, currently 35, could rise to 80. Mr Cardoso's PSDB may do the same, and other left-centre victories could, estimates say, bring the number of left-wing MPs up to 300, a parliamentary majority.

Theoretically, Mr Cardoso could then break free and champion the left. But in Brazil the presidency is far more powerful than the legislature. And in any case, the last time a Brazilian president took such a course, confronting the landowners on the issue of agrarian reform in 1964, a military coup followed. Rule by the generals lasted more than 20 years.

Millions of Brazilians will be untouched by all of this. Of Brazil's 150 million people, the government reckons 64.5 million are 'in poverty', meaning that they earn less than the minimum wage of 70 reals ( pounds 51) a month. Of them 32 million 'go hungry'. Voluntary agencies working with the poor say that these millions have no effective share in the structures of civil society and are powerless to extract favours from whichever candidate may be elected today.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star