Brazilian centrist Alckmin, Lula’s big bet on VP

Brazilian centrist Alckmin, Lula’s big bet on VP


Known as a good administrator but a boring politician, Brazil’s pro-business centrist Geraldo Alckmin is the wingman that left-wing President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is counting on to help heal a deeply divided country.

The vice-president-designate and his boss are not exactly an obvious couple: Alckmin ran against then-president Lula in the 2006 elections in Brazil and lost in the run-off.

But they decided to band together, they say, to defeat a common enemy: far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

“People might find that strange,” Alckmin said in March, as he became Lula’s running mate in the hard-fought election that ended in Sunday’s runoff victory.

“I ran against Lula in 2006. But we never compromised the issue of democracy.”

Lula on Tuesday appointed Alckmin to lead the transition with the outgoing government.

Alckmin, 69, rose to prominence as the governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest and wealthiest state, in the 2000s and 2010s. The mild-mannered anesthetist earned a reputation as a solid leader and was well-liked in the business and financial communities.

But he was politically forgotten, winning less than five percent of the vote in the first round of the 2018 presidential campaign that put Bolsonaro in power.

A co-founder of the centre-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), long Lula’s main rival metal worker.

“We must open our eyes and have the humility to recognize that today (Lula) is the person who best reflects and interprets the Brazilian people’s hope for the future,” Alckmin said.

– ‘No showman’ –

A few years ago, he had less kind words for the former — and now future — president.

“After Brazil’s bankruptcy, Lula says he wants to be president again. In other words, friends, he wants to return to the crime scene,” Alckmin said in 2017.

But Lula wanted a pro-business running mate to help him launch a large-scale campaign with broad appeal and win back centrist voters still plagued by the huge recession and corruption scandals that marked the end of the PT’s years in power (2003-2016 ) marked. .

Lula, 77, has been here before: his vice president when he was president was centre-right businessman Jose Alencar, who helped convince cautious markets that the ex-union leader was serious about orthodox economic policies.

As with Alencar, the risk of Lula being overshadowed by Alckmin, a politician nicknamed “Xuxu popsicle” – a reference to a bland vegetable widely eaten in Brazil, seems slim.

“I’m not a showman. If you want to see a show, see a comedian,” the bald, bespectacled Alckmin once said.

Born in Pindamonhangaba, a small town outside of Sao Paulo, Alckmin grew up in a devout Catholic family.

He was a city councilman and mayor before winning a seat in Congress and eventually the governorship.

Despite his spotless reputation, he did not escape unscathed from the massive “Car Wash” corruption investigation that tainted a laundry list of politicians and businessmen in Brazil, including Lula’s boss.

Managers at the Odebrecht construction giant counted Alckmin among the politicians who allegedly received illegal campaign donations.

More to explorer