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LATIN AMERICA | 31-10-2022 15:37

Lula to mix old and new allies to solve Brazil’s cabinet puzzle

Incoming leftist leader has vowed that his government won’t be dominated by his Workers’ Party, but will include representatives of all the groups that helped him attain a third term. 

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s most pressing task in the coming days is to combine old and new allies into a cabinet that reflects the broad coalition he’s forged to win Brazil’s election. 

The leftist leader, who defeated President Jair Bolsonaro by a narrow margin on Sunday, has a handful of names ready to be deployed but all the positions remain open, according to four close advisers who asked not to be named as the discussion isn’t public. 

Lula will increase the number of Cabinet positions by at least a third, including splitting the current economy ministry into three positions: finance, planning, and industry and commerce. He will also rebuild the so-called "council of economic and social development" including business and union leaders, as well as members of civil society.  

While Lula has discouraged talks in public and in private about the theme, he has given some hints, comparing himself to an old football coach who needs a mix of experienced and young players, according to one of the advisers. He has also ensured that his government won’t be dominated by his Workers’ Party, but will include representatives of all the groups that helped him attain a third term. 

A few names from the Workers’ Party, however, are nearly certain in the incoming administration, they said. Among them: Lower House representative Alexandre Padilha; Senator Jaques Wagner; and economist Aloizio Mercadante, who won’t be the finance chief but could become planning minister if the top economic job is given to a non-Workers’ Party member.

Senator-elect Wellington Dias and re-elected lower house representative Gleisi Hoffmann, the head of the Workers’ Party, could also take on a Cabinet position, but Lula is aware he will need to keep experienced leftist politicians in a centre-right leaning Congress, the advisers said. There are also doubts about the most appropriate role for Fernando Haddad, the defeated governor candidate for São Paulo, and outgoing Bahia Governor Rui Costa.

 

New allies

Among the newcomers in Lula’s coalition, Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin won’t be finance minister but will have a say in key decisions on economic and agricultural policies.    

Senator Simone Tebet, who placed third in the presidential race and whose support was crucial for Lula’s victory in the run-off, is widely expected to take on a ministerial position. Her likely options, according to the advisers, are Education, Agriculture, or Social Development. 

Henrique Meirelles, who has already led Brazil’s Central Bank and the Finance Ministry in previous administrations, is considered a “safe option” to head the economic team, particularly if markets become jittery about Lula’s policies. Former São Paulo Governor Márcio França, who lost the race to become senator for the state, could be named Science and Technology minister. 

Former minister Marina Silva, who repaired her relationship with Lula and was elected as house representative this month, is also expected to gain a role related to the environment, perhaps as climate envoy.

The coordination of the government transition will be given to either Mercadante or Alckmin, Senator Randolfe Rodrigues told journalists on Monday.

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by Simone Iglesias, Bloomberg

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