- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s leftist president faces a runoff for a second term after voters denied him an outright victory yesterday after last-minute accusations that his party engaged in a scheme of electoral corruption and dirty tricks.

Election authorities announced the Oct. 29 runoff after 98 percent of the vote had been counted, with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva getting 48.8 percent compared with 41.4 percent for center-right candidate Geraldo Alckmin, Sao Paulo state’s former governor.

It was a stunning defeat for Mr. Lula de Silva, who polls had predicted less than a week ago would trounce Mr. Alckmin with 59 percent of the vote, far more than the 50 percent plus one vote needed to win the contest in the first round.

Mr. Lula de Silva had been favored to win because of the economic stability and anti-poverty programs he brought to Brazil. Votes in Sao Paulo, Mr. Alckmin’s stronghold and Brazil’s most populous state, apparently helped force the runoff.

Mr. Lula de Silva’s campaign manager, Marco Aurelio Garcia, earlier said a first-round win for the president was still possible because many of the uncounted votes were from Brazil’s impoverished northeast, which has benefited handsomely from government social programs.

“We believe that Lula will show solid growth as the vote from the northeast starts showing its weight,” Mr. Garcia told reporters. “But I want to reaffirm that we always prepared ourselves for a two-round election.”

However, of the 7 million uncounted votes by late yesterday, 6 million were from Sao Paulo state, where Mr. Alckmin was beating the incumbent.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Lula de Silva said he was confident of a first-round victory after voting in the industrial town of Sao Bernardo do Campo, where he rose to prominence as a labor leader.

For months, polls have shown the incumbent easily winning the race. But Mr. Lula de Silva saw his once-commanding lead plummet on the eve of the vote as his Workers’ Party was battered by accusations that party officials tried to buy a mysterious dossier that apparently contained incriminating information about a political rival.

Major newspapers ran front-page photos over the weekend showing piles of money purportedly meant to buy information showing corrupt dealings by an opponent. Local press reported that the photos were leaked by federal police.

Mr. Lula de Silva’s party said Mr. Alckmin’s supporters were involved and filed a complaint yesterday with a judge demanding that Mr. Alckmin’s candidacy be declared invalid because of the leak. The judge has said he would consider the case. Mr. Alckmin’s campaign has denied involvement.

Six members of Mr. Lula da Silva’s party, including an old friend who ran the president’s personal security detail, face arrest warrants on suspicion of involvement in efforts to buy the damaging information. Mr. Lula da Silva fired his campaign manager days before the election but repeatedly has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Alckmin said yesterday that he was sure “ethics will defeat corruption.”

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