Military Rule Ends With Tancredo Neves Presidential Win
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) _ Brazil ended nearly 21 years of military rule Tuesday when the Electoral College picked opposition candidate Tancredo Neves as president for a six-year term.
Celebrations, with samba dancing in the streets and processions of horn- honking cars, erupted throughout this nation of 134 million people.
″While there exists in this country one man without a job, without food, without housing, without education, all prosperity will be false,″ the 74- year-old Neves told cheering Electoral College delegates.
Lidio Caldas of Brasilia, one of the thousands of people who had camped out on the trim lawn of the Congress where the Electoral College met, said, ″This is democracy. This is the end of recession, an end to the military.″
The crowds screamed, danced and waved flags when Neves’ triumph was assured. Signs said: ″Good Morning, Democracy. A New Republic Is Born Today,″ and the throngs sang, ″Happy Birthday″ - to hail the rebirth of civilian rule.
Neves, a lawyer and centrist leader of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, defeated Paulo Salim Maluf, a 53-year-old businessman and candidate of the military-backed government’s Social Democratic Party.
Neves received 480 of the votes cast by the 686-member Electoral College, composed of federal congressmen elected in direct balloting in 1982 plus representatives of the majority party in each of Brazil’s 23 states. Maluf got 180 votes, while 20 members were absent and six abstained.
Millions of people attended huge rallies early last year demanding direct presidential elections. But legislation sponsored by the opposition that would have provided for open voting rather than an Electoral College selection was defeated in Congress last April.
Althouh the Social Democrats had a 35-member majority in the Electoral College, Neves won a large bloc of dissidents to gain the presidency. In return, Neves’ party put up as vice president Jose Sarney, who until last year was head of the Social Democrats. Sarney, 54, is a lawyer and senator.
Both Neves and Maluf are civilians, but Neves’ victory marks the first time the opposition has gained power since a military coup in March 1964 ousted the elected government of leftist Joao Goulart.
Gen. Joao Figueiredo, who steps down as president March 15, was the fifth military officer to head Brazil since the takeover.
The president-elect, in his acceptance speech that drew cheers from the Electoral College delegates, pledged to reinstate direct presidential elections, saying, ″This was Brazil’s last indirect election.″
He also promised a future of ″justice, liberty, and peace,″ and praised what he called the ″healthy contradiction″ of democracy.
″The more democratic a society is, the weaker the state is. Its power of coercion is only to see that the law is obeyed,″ Neves said.
He added that the ″prime task″ of his administration would be to draft a a new Constitution. The present one was heavily amended by the military regimes.
His speech was briefly interrupted by Jose Moura, known in Brazil as ″the wild kisser,″ who gained notoriety by planting a kiss on Pope John Paul II in Brazil in 1980. Moura tried, in vain, to rush onto the platform to kiss Neves.
Neves telephoned Figueiredo, who was in Rio de Janeiro recuperating from a back ailment, and said, ″Thank you for making this day possible.″ The president replied, ″I congratulate you on your victory.″
The 67-year-old Figueiredo, who by law could not run for re-election after serving one term, neither named nor supported the Social Democratic Party, a change from his military predescessors.
He had reinstated many democratic reforms lost during the early years after the coup, but stopped short of allowing direct presidential elections and insisted on the Electoral College.
Figueiredo and Neves are to meet Wednesday.
Neves’ 50-year political career includes serving as a city councilman, federal representative, senator, governor and briefly as prime minister, when Brazil tried the parliamentary system for a short period during the early 1960s.
He has promised to revitalize the economy and to convoke a national assembly to rewrite the constitution.
Brazil is burdened by a foreign debt of more than $100 billion, inflation is running at more than 220 percent, and the unemployment and underemployment rate is put at 40 percent.
Tuesday was not a holiday, but thousands of people took part in the festivities. Many bars and restaurants held ″Good Morning, Democracy″ parties Tuesday night.
Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other cities had put up huge score boards in public plazas to follow the Electoral College vote.
Neves supporters sold T-shirts bearing his name for $3 and people passed out yellow flowers, with yellow being the color of Neves’ party.
″We all feel patriotic today,″ said Neves booster Jorge Jose Dias Chaves at the Congress building. Then he went back to chanting a victory slogan.