Lula's Baptism of Fire

With his stunning victory in Sunday's second round of Brazil's presidential elections, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ("Lula") has finally achieved his goal after four attempts. Written off at the campaign's start as an eternal loser, Lula confounded his critics by running a professional campaign garnering support from across the political spectrum.

Here he was helped by the lackluster efforts of his main opponent, José Serra, who failed to build on the substantial achievements of outgoing President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. In a country stained by social injustice and the most unequal distribution of income in the world, Lula's victory is an astounding achievement in view of his humble origins and trade union background.

Governing, however, will not be easier than winning office. Lula's Workers' Party (PT) is in the minority in both houses of congress. His natural allies elsewhere on the left cannot provide a majority. The PT, however, is both the largest party in the lower house and the most disciplined.

That discipline matters because governing Brazil has always been about building coalitions. Lula will face a similar situation to that which confronted President Cardoso, whose Social Democratic Party (PSDB) managed over the course of eight years to push through legislation on the basis of party coalitions that looked highly unstable to outsiders. His control of his party should help him reach the necessary compromises he will need to make with other parties in order to govern effectively.