Date: Fri, 3 Jul 98 12:44:14 CDT
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: POLITICS-MERCOSUR: Leftist Coalitions Gather Strength
Article: 38183
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 497.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-MERCOSUR: Leftist Coalitions Gather Strength **
** Written 4:07 PM Jul 2, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Leftist coalitions gather strength

By Daniel Gatti, InterPress Service, 29 June 1998

MONTEVIDEO, Jun 29 (IPS)—Leftist political parties have a good chance of taking over the governments in three of the four member nations of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) within the next two years.

Such would be the case in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay—if the opposition Alliance, a coalition headed by the Worker's Party and the Broad Front, is victorious in general elections to be held before the year 2000.

In the other Mercosur country, Paraguay, the left's chances of assuming power were recently undermined by the electoral triumph of the conservative candidate Raul Cubas of the ruling Colorado Party.

According to recent surveys, the Alliance for Work, Justice, and Education, a coalition consisting of the Radical Civil Union and the moderate left Front for Country Solidarity, is a strong contender in the 1999 elections in Argentina. Both of these political parties were victorious in partial legislative elections held in October of 1997 in which the Partido Justicialista (Peronist Party) of President Carlos Menem was defeated.

In Brazil, pre-election polls indicate that the coalition led by the director of the PT (Worker's Party), Luis Inacio de Silva, is attracting the same number of potential voters as President Fernando Enrique Cardoso who, despite being a social democrat himself, is supported by a political spectrum made up of right wing parties.

A survey administered in mid-June by the Datafolha company, a subsidiary of the newspaper Folha of Sao Paolo, attributes 44 percent of the vote to Lula and his fellow social democrat Leonel Brizola in the second returns of the elections in which they will confront Cardoso in October.

The Datafolha survey exemplifies the growing popularity that the candidacy of Lula, a former leader of a metallurgic syndicate, has been registering since the beginning of the year. In May, the same survey was awarding Cardoso a hard-earned but nonetheless secure victory in the decisive round of the upcoming presidential elections.

In Uruguay, all opinion polls agree that the Frente Amplio (Broad Front), almost certain to be headed by the former mayor of Montevideo, Tabar Vazquez, will receive the most votes in the first return of the elections to be held in November of 1999. Uruguay has adopted the French system of two returns to be used for the first time in the next elections.

The left opposed the French mechanism, claiming it had been introduced by the ruling conservative coalition, fearful of the systematic growth registered by the Broad Front since the country's return to democracy in 1984.

Some right-wing politicians conceded this point, justifying the necessity of implementing a second return as a means of preserving democracy in the face of the surging totalitarian left.

While for the moment the political panorama appears relatively auspicious for the left and moderate left parties in three of the four Mercosur countries, these parties are far from offering any kind of unified or identifiable program.

Leaders of the Front for Country Solidarity Front, the Broad Front, and the Worker's Party meet periodically within the context of bi-lateral discussions or joint participation within an international framework, yet they still lack an organic stamp of stable co-ordination, Broad Front sources told IPS.

There has been a similar evolution, a certain 'updating' common to the left throughout the world after the fall of communism, the sources said. Yet, in the regional arena we lack the instruments that would enable us to organize and put to practical use our reflections on the recent past.

In addition, while there has been a displacement toward the center among the defining majority of the left in the region, the three 'progressive' alliances, above all the Majority Front and the Worker's Party, both closely related to the classical left, are troubled by internal squabbles.

In the Argentine alliance, the Solidarity Front co-exists with the Radical Civil Union—one of the traditional parties of the country and with whom present Frepaso leaders maintained a confrontational relationship throughout the administration of the radical Raul Alfonso (1983-89).

Some critics, including those from the left, say that the Frepaso leaders maintained the conflict simply to gain votes.

In Brazil, the same Worker's Party that experienced such significant growth under the leadership of Lula, who in 1989 received 31 million votes in a general election in which he was defeated by a right wing coalition headed by Fernando Collor, is not ideologically homogenous either.

An example of the internal discrepancies within the principal party of the Brazilian left was the announcement earlier this month by some mid-level party leaders and the subsequent denial by others that in the case of victory there would be a reassessment of public sector companies created under the Cardoso administration.

To avoid exposing a 'weak flank' of the party that could be exploited by the right, Lula and Brizola have agreed not to speak of the matter until after the elections. Last week Lula said that he intends to implement a work plan similar to the one put into practice by the Clinton administration in the United States, a statement that evoked severe criticism from large sectors of the continental left.

The Broad Front of Uruguay also has internal disputes regarding the economic policy that would be implemented in case of a presidential victory. The dispute involves a clash of interests among a minority 'radical' sector and a majority but disintegrating moderate wing.

While the Frepaso party and more radical Argentinians have both agreed not to question positive aspects of economic stability achieved by the Menem administration, such as the annihilation of inflation, and intend only to correct the present economic model, the two groups have very distinct 'sensibilities.'

The Frepasista leaders, coming primarily from a Peronist political background and in a less degree from small left wing parties, promote the application of social policies 'more daring than the radicals,' said the leader of the Frente (Front), Carlos 'Chacho' Alvarez, in 1997.

In any regard, the Broad Front as well as the PT Worker's Party and the Argentinian alliance all share a common axis of agitation that has enabled them to captivate large sectors of the national electorate

Central to the platforms of all three is the fight against unemployment and corruption, the defense of the right of the state to intervene in economic policy, a model of economic growth that supports productive national sectors and discourages financial speculation, and the reformation of the present tax system.

On the international plane, it is agreed upon that the regional integration must involve a strong social dimension, an aspect not considered in previous agreements reached by the present governments of the four Mercosur nations.