Lula abandons legal efforts to run for Brazil’s presidency

Former president, currently in prison, will be replaced by running mate Fernando Haddad

Brazilian former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves from a window of the Metallurgical Union, in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo state, last April. Photograph: Miguel Schincariol/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves from a window of the Metallurgical Union, in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo state, last April. Photograph: Miguel Schincariol/AFP/Getty Images

 

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has abandoned his legal efforts to force his way on to the ballot for Brazil’s presidential election next month after the country’s electoral court barred the former president from running because of his conviction for corruption.

He will be replaced by his running mate Fernando Haddad. The Workers Party was due to make the announcement on Tuesday afternoon at the camp it has maintained outside the police station where Lula has been detained since April, when he started a 12-year prison sentence.

The move came just ahead of a deadline for the party to name a substitute following the union leader’s disqualification under Brazil’s “clean slate” law, which bars from office anyone whose conviction for a crime has been upheld by a higher court.

Last year Lula was condemned in a case involving a beachfront apartment and his sentence was increased by a three-judge appeals court in January. He still faces another six cases brought against him by federal prosecutors.

A university professor, Mr Haddad becomes the fourth former senior member of Lula’s administration to enter the race, joining his one-time ministerial colleagues Ciro Gomes and Marina Silva and ex-president of the central bank Henrique Meirelles.

Humiliated

After 6½ years as education minister, Mr Haddad was elected mayor of São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, in 2012. But four years later was humiliated in his bid for re-election, seeing his support collapse amid widespread public anger at evidence of his party’s corruption and the deep recession caused by the economic experimentation of Lula’s protege and successor Dilma Rousseff.

Despite his imprisonment Lula had maintained a large lead in opinion polls before his exclusion from the race. But as a native of the wealthy southeast, Mr Haddad is little known in the poor north and northeast of Brazil, where support for the former president is strongest.

“The challenge for the Workers Party leadership is to make clear to voters that Haddad is the candidate of Lula. It is not a trivial task, especially as there are only a few more weeks of the campaign left,” notes André Pereira César, a political scientist in Brasília.

Growing realisation

But the growing realisation that Lula would be prevented from running, along with the greater exposition of Mr Haddad with the start this month of televised political broadcasts, have seen the former mayor’s poll numbers start to rise. A Datafolha poll released on Monday night, before the announcement of Lula’s withdrawal, already recorded an increase in Haddad’s support from 4 per cent to 9 per cent.

With Lula excluded, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro now leads the race. But disappointing his campaign’s expectations, support for the former army captain only increased within the margin of error to 24 per cent following his stabbing at a campaign rally last week, while his rejection rating jumped to 43 per cent of voters who said they would never vote for him under any circumstances.