Rousseff’s main ally eyes Brazil’s presidency in 2018

Updated 15 May 2015

Rousseff’s main ally eyes Brazil’s presidency in 2018

BRASILIA: For the last 20 years, Brazil’s largest political party has not once fielded a presidential candidate, instead content to partner with the eventual winner to retain a share of power.
No longer, it appears.
The Brazil Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which for many Brazilians epitomizes a self-serving political class living off pork barrel, is now pushing its own legislative agenda as it gears up to make a run for the presidency in 2018.
PMDB sources told Reuters it is reviewing its policy program and preparing to abandon its 12-year-old alliance with President Dilma Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) for the next election.
An umbrella party that was tolerated during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, the PMDB has no defined ideology but is broadly more pro-business and socially conservative than the PT.
It is an amorphous agglomeration of regional bosses who often represent contradictory interests and seldom have united behind their own presidential candidate. Instead, they have allied themselves with whoever is in power, be it the PT or the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which ruled Brazil between 1995 and 2002.
Still, the PMDB has great power in Brazil today.
It controls both houses of Congress and the vice presidency, with the power to push through or block legislation.
It has several cabinet members in Rousseff’s government, including key ministries such as agriculture and energy, and its support has been pivotal for the passage of unpopular austerity measures Brazil has had to adopt to put its finances in order.
PMDB officials say it has hired economists to update its program and overhauled its communications strategy to appeal to younger voters on social media.
“We are paving the way for victory in 2018. We cannot miss the opportunity to make the 50-year dream of our party come true: to elect the country’s president,” Wellington Moreira Franco, the main architect of the PMDB’s renovation plan, told regional party leaders last week to a loud round of applause.
Moreira Franco, a former minister in Rousseff’s cabinet, said the PT is in crisis after more than a decade in office, buffeted by a stagnant economy and a massive corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras.
“There is a big power vacuum today,” he told Reuters.
The PMDB will hold a convention in September to revamp its platform before testing the waters in municipal elections in 2016.
It has a strong presence in small towns across much of Brazil, a legacy of military rule when it was the only opposition party that politicians were allowed to join. It is now targeting the big cities, where angry voters have taken to the streets to protest against corruption and bad public services.
The PMDB is also looking for strong presidential candidates.
Only once has Brazil elected a president from its ranks, in 1985 when democracy was restored, but Tancredo Neves died before taking office. His running mate José Sarney, a backer of the military who switched to the PMDB, became its only president to date.


Singapore closing workplaces, schools in latest coronavirus measures

Updated 28 sec ago

Singapore closing workplaces, schools in latest coronavirus measures

  • Singapore’s infections, both imported and domestic, have been rising sharply in recent weeks and topped 1,000 this week
SINGAPORE: Singapore will close schools and most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors, for a month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday, as part of stricter measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Singapore’s infections, both imported and domestic, have been rising sharply in recent weeks and topped 1,000 this week. It reported its fifth death on Friday.
“We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now, to pre-empt escalating infections,” Lee said in a speech.
Food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and key banking services will remain open. The city-state will also move to full home-based learning in its schools and universities.
Lee urged everyone to stay home as much as possible and to avoid socialising with others beyond their own household.
He said the country had enough food supplies to last through this period and beyond.
The city-state will also announce additional support for households and businesses on Monday, he added.
The Southeast Asian nation has adopted some social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus, but had let schools, offices and restaurants remain open.