January 14, 2009

FUNNY HOW THE GUYS CLOSEST TO AMERICA ARE THE MOST POPULAR, EH?:

Lula's last lap: A freakishly popular president has only a year left before electioneering curtails his mandate. He will spend it reacting rather than reforming (The Economist, 1/09/09)

REPEATS are often disappointing. It is rare indeed to find a president in his second term with an approval rating of 80%, as Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva now enjoys. No American president since the second world war has managed it. In Latin America, only Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe at the height of his success last year against the FARC guerrillas has touched a similar level of adoration. So Lula, a pragmatic former trade-union leader, is entering his penultimate year in office in a position in which he ought to be able to do almost anything.

Yet this apparent omnipotence is illusory, not least because it will be brief: by early 2010 the president will start to be overshadowed by the campaign to elect his successor. He is also constrained by his own left-wing Workers’ Party (PT); by his political allies; by the economic troubles that only recently reached Brazil’s shores and have yet to be felt to their full extent; and by his temperamental compulsion to preserve his popularity. “I would not like to be called a populist,” he sometimes says, “but I do like to be popular.”

Lula still talks about reforming Brazil’s labyrinthine tax system and improving the way its political parties and elections work. These were supposed to have been the priorities of his second term. Both are properly matters for Congress, though if he wished the president could use his vast political capital to try to force them through.

Yet they are forever being postponed, sometimes on flimsy excuses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 14, 2009 6:19 PM
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